Intelligence officials worry that a February 13 briefing on election interference is being distorted due to a misunderstanding by Democratic lawmakers, NBC reported on Wednesday.
According to one current and one former senior intelligence official, the information presented at the meeting by top election security official Shelby Pierson was misinterpreted by Democratic lawmakers. A New York Times report on the meeting cited “five people familiar with the matter” as saying Pierson told a bipartisan group of lawmakers that Russia is actively meddling in the U.S. elections in favor of President Trump.
But the two officials who spoke with NBC said Pierson did not indicate that Russia was intervening in the elections on behalf of Trump. On Monday, CNN also reported that intelligence officials said the briefing had been mischaracterized in the media.
After the Times story was published, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) wrote on Twitter that Trump could be “jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling.”
“Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates,” Trump tweeted in response to the story.
On Friday, failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted that Trump was “taking Russian help.”
“Putin’s Puppet is at it again, taking Russian help for himself. He knows he can’t win without it,” Clinton wrote.
Adding to the confusion, the Washington Post reported on Friday that Russia was boosting Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I., Vt.) presidential campaign.
Sanders responded that he had been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials on the matter, and did not deny that Russia was attempting to help his campaign. However, the Vermont senator suggested the report, which was published one day before the Nevada Caucuses, was released due to political motivations.
During Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg brought up the report, claiming that Russia is aiding Sanders in the primary to help Trump in the general election.
“Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that’s why Russia is helping you [Sanders] get elected, so you’ll lose to him,” Bloomberg said.