The Russia connectionReports: Trump Ousted Acting Intel Chief After He Warned of Russian 2020 Election Meddling

By Jeff Seldin

Published 21 February 2020

President Donald Trump fired Director of National Security Joseph Maguire, the U.S. top intelligence official, after Maguire, in a classified briefing, told lawmakers that the U.S. intelligence community is seeing an intensification of Russia’s covert efforts to help Trump’s reelection campaign. The Kremlin’s campaign, already under way, would combine elements from the Kremlin’s successful 2016 effort to help Trump – hacking of Trump’s rivals and saturating social media with fake postings – with a new emphasis on corrupting voter rolls, hacking voting machines, and disrupting vote tallies. Trump has always rejected the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous conclusion, based on incontrovertible facts, that Russia heavily interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election, preferring instead to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials that such interference took place.

U.S. President Donald Trump made the decision to cast out his top intelligence official following a classified briefing to lawmakers about election security, according to reports.

The Washington Post and the New York Times said Thursday the president was irate after learning of last week’s briefing to members of the House Intelligence Committee, concerned that officials had shared information that could be used against him.

Trump then called acting Director of National Security Joseph Maguire to his office the next day, when he ultimately decided to replace him.

There was a dressing down” of Maguire, a source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post. “That was the catalyst.”

According to the Times, the president’s anger was sparked by an assessment from one of Maguire’s top aides, Shelby Pierson, who told lawmakers that Russia has been interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, seeking to get Trump reelected.

Officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its election security office declined comment when contacted by VOA.

A request for comment to the White House also went unanswered, but reaction from Democratic lawmakers has been swift.

I am gravely concerned,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement late Thursday.

The president puts ego above country,” he added. “By firing Acting DNI Maguire because his staff provided the candid conclusions of the Intelligence Community to Congress regarding Russian meddling in the 2020 presidential election, the president is not only refusing to defend against foreign interference, he’s inviting it.”

The rocky relationship between Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies dates back to the 2016 presidential election, when the intelligence community concluded, “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible,” the leading U.S. intelligence agencies wrote in an unclassified report released in 2017.

Those conclusions were backed up by a report in April 2019 by special counsel Robert Mueller, which found, “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome.”

But Trump has consistently denied any Russian interference, repeatedly deferring to Putin’s denials.

He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters following a conversation with Putin in Vietnam. “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”

Still, U.S. intelligence officials have said, repeatedly, that not only did Russia meddle in 2016, but that it did so again in 2018 and that it would meddle in the