House Intelligence Briefing Stating That Russia Favors Trump Reelection Angers Trump
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Russia is reportedly interfering in the 2020 campaign, and the goal is trying to get President Trump reelected. That is the conclusion of intelligence officials who briefed the House Intelligence Committee about the interference last week. The Washington Post has the story, and the Post's Ellen Nakashima joins me now.
ELLEN NAKASHIMA: Hi.
KELLY: So talk to me about this briefing. According to your reporting, it was Shelby Pierson, the top official who oversees election security, who was doing the briefing. Do we know what she told them?
NAKASHIMA: Right. Shelby Pierson is the intelligence community's official in charge of election security. And last week - Thursday - she, along with other administration officials from other agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, were on the Hill, briefing the House Intelligence Committee on election security generally. And...
KELLY: The full committee, by the way - Democrats and Republicans; everyone there. OK.
NAKASHIMA: You got it - Democrats, Republicans, both sides of the House. And she - they were briefing about election security generally. And in that briefing, she brought up some new intelligence that she said showed Russia had a preference for the incumbent, for Donald Trump. She said that several times, according to our sources. And she was pressed - Republican lawmakers on the committee took great issue with that and pressed her for evidence of her claims. We're not sure how she, in fact, responded to that. But, in fact, she said that there was a preference for Trump. It was not clear that she's indicated that Russia had taken any steps, in effect, to actually carry out their preference.
KELLY: That was going to be my next question. Do we know what specifically Russia is doing to try to help Trump get reelected?
NAKASHIMA: Right. So it wasn't clear that - in fact, that she was saying there was any interference. But certainly, she said that there was a preference for Trump. And then what happened is Devin Nunes, the Republican ranking member on the committee and a very close and loyal ally of President Trump, told Donald Trump - told the president that day after the briefing about this - about what Shelby Pierson had told the committee. And Trump got very angry.
KELLY: Yes. Your reporting documents that President Trump got very angry. You say he erupted at the director of national intelligence - so Shelby Pierson's boss...
KELLY: ...In the Oval Office last week, and the reason was because of this briefing.
NAKASHIMA: Right. The following day after the Hill briefing, on Friday, there was a separate election security briefing for the president, a special briefing on that subject from the intelligence community and other agencies, like DHS and the FBI. And in that briefing, Shelby Pierson was not there. But Joe Maguire, the acting DNI and Shelby's boss, was there. And Trump dressed him down, according to our sources. He said to Joe Maguire, why is it that I'm hearing about this from a congressman, from Devin Nunes? Why didn't I hear it first from my own intelligence aides? And he added, you all are getting played. You're getting played. Russia isn't trying to help me. This is - people are just, you know, pulling out the same, basically, hoax that he said was being perpetrated in 2016.
KELLY: Do we know if this is linked to the other big news out of the intelligence community this week, which is that Joseph Maguire, who has been acting DNI, is, as of last night, out of a job?
NAKASHIMA: Yes. Well, in fact, several of the - of our sources have said they believed that this incident was a precipitating factor - a catalyst for President Trump to replace Joe Maguire with Richard Grenell, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Germany And another very strong, vocal partisan and ally of Trump.
KELLY: And that was the news as of last night, that Grenell...
KELLY: ...Will come in as the next acting director of national intelligence - many questions there.
Ellen Nakashima, thank you.
NAKASHIMA: Thank you.
KELLY: She covers national security for The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.