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Officials Dispute Briefing on 2020 Russian Interference Favoring Trump: ‘The Intelligence Doesn’t Say That’

President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands after their joint news conference in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. (Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via Reuters)

National security officials have disputed the New York Times’s characterization of a recent House Intelligence Committee briefing on election interference, arguing that it is “misleading” to suggest that intelligence officials have concluded the Russians are working to aid President Trump’s reelection.

The Times reported last Thursday that the February 13 briefing left Trump angered and caused him to grill Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence and the direct superior of official Shelby Pierson, who delivered the briefing. Trump reportedly attacked Maguire because he had not been made aware of Pierson’s assessment before it was delivered to the House.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) tweeted out the story after it broke, and warned that Trump could be “jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling.”

But the president later suggested the story was fabricated, and called it a “misinformation campaign” that was “launched by Democrats.”

“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 Friday.

Officials told CNN that the Times’s characterization of the briefing reflected Pierson’s claim that Trump had Russian backing, which was not an accurate representation of the intelligence.

“The intelligence doesn’t say that,” a national security official said. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.”

The reporting on the briefing caused Hillary Clinton to call Trump “Putin’s Puppet,” and accused him of “taking Russian help for himself.”

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