Democrats Request FBI Briefing on Election Interference'Congress Appears to Be the Target of a Concerted Foreign Interference Campaign'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray this week requesting a classified briefing on a "concerted foreign interference campaign" targeting lawmakers ahead of the November election.
In addition to Pelosi and Schumer, the letter is signed by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate and the presidential election in November," according to the letter, which was written on July 13 but made public Monday.
The lawmakers have asked the FBI to provide a briefing prior to the August Congressional recess.
The letter requests the FBI "provide a classified defensive briefing to all members of Congress and that the briefing draw on all-source intelligence information and analysis, consistent with due regard for the protection of sensitive intelligence sources and methods."
The letter does not delve into any specifics about election interference or disruption aimed at lawmakers, but it contains a classified addendum that includes details from the "executive branch’s own reporting and analysis," according to The Hill, which cites an unnamed congressional official.
An FBI spokesperson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The lawmakers also sent copies of the letter to the CIA, the U.S. National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The letter comes after the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in April that concluded Russia and its intelligence services conducted an unprecedented, multifaceted campaign to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election (see: Senate Report Affirms Russian Election Interference Findings).
Meanwhile, Google's Threat Analysis Group published a report in June warning that state-sponsored phishing attacks unsuccessfully attempted to infiltrate the campaign offices of President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden (see: Google: Phishing Attacks Targeted Trump, Biden Campaigns).
While the Democrat’s letter to the FBI raises new questions about possible election interference in November, the federal agency in charge of securing the country's election infrastructure reports that there appears to be less nation-state activity this year compared to the run-up to 2016.
CISA is picking up less chatter about nation-state interference, said Christopher Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, at a virtual gathering Friday organized by the Brookings Institution.
"Compared to 2016, we're not seeing that level of coordinated, determined cyber activity from adversaries,” Krebs told the virtual audience. “We absolutely have better visibility across networks, and we're just not seeing the same level of activity that we saw in 2016."
Krebs noted that the increased use of paper ballots is one reason for optimism. In 2016, about 80% of votes were cast with an associated paper record, which is a key element in determining the integrity of the vote. In the 2020 election, Krebs expects that number to increase to over 90%.
"The ability to conduct post-election audits is important in establishing the integrity of the election,” Krebs said.