House Intel Chair blasts spy agencies for delaying Hill briefing on Russian hack

Story highlights

  • Nunes' committee reached out to four federal agencies on Tuesday for an Intel briefing
  • The Director of National Intelligence said top administration officials have been giving regular briefings

(CNN)House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, who is heading up the House probe on Russia's efforts to interfere with the US election, called the decision by the Intelligence Community -- which is run by appointees of President Barack Obama -- to delay a briefing for his panel on the issue "unacceptable."

He also suggested the spy agencies were playing politics.
"The Committee is deeply concerned that intransigence in sharing intelligence with Congress can enable the manipulation of intelligence for political purposes. The Committee will continue its efforts and will insist that we receive all the necessary cooperation from the relevant leaders of the Intelligence Community," Nunes said in a statement late Wednesday.
    Nunes' committee reached out to four federal agencies on Tuesday -- the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- to summon them to brief the committee Thursday. But the CIA told the panel that it was too busy working on the investigation that Obama ordered to brief the members of the committee, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
    James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, said in a written statement that top administration officials have been giving regular classified briefings to those on Capitol Hill since the summer, when information emerged about Russia's actions to access accounts of Democratic operatives and campaign committee computer systems. He also indicated that his team is focused on the putting together the report commissioned by the President. The other agencies declined to respond to the committee, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
    "Once the review is complete in the coming weeks, the Intelligence Community stands ready to brief Congress and will make those findings available to the public consistent with protecting intelligence sources and methods. We will not offer any comment until the review is complete," Clapper said.
    CNN earlier reported that multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation into Russia's hacking say the US intelligence community is increasingly confident that Russian meddling in the US election was intended to steer the election toward Trump, rather than simply to undermine or in other ways disrupt the political process.
    In recent days, more information has emerged about the CIA's assessment that the hacking by Russia during the 2016 campaign was done to specifically help Donald Trump win the presidential election. That news has reignited calls from top members of Congress for an aggressive investigation to learn more details and determine steps to avoid future cyberthreats.
    Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, has urged for a joint House-Senate bipartisan probe on Russia's actions, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has backed Nunes' efforts to keep the House investigation under his committee.
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats on Capitol Hill have also urged the creation of an outside bipartisan commission, similar to the one created after the 9/11 terror attacks, to examine the cyber-attacks from Russia.
    Pelosi re-upped her call for a probe outside Congress on Thursday, citing reports of the involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "given the alarming magnitude, seriousness and scope of Russia's efforts to undermine U.S. elections, we must have an independent, bipartisan investigation to protect the integrity of our democracy."
    Like Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes existing committees can handle the investigation so it's unlikely the GOP-led Congress will sign off on additional reviews. The Senate Intelligence committee, led by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, is looking into the issue, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Armed Services panel, announced he would investigate cyberwarfare and Russian hacking operations.
    But McCain joined South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, along with the incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the top Democrat on his committee, Sen. Jack Reed, in calling that all efforts by Congress in what they view as a national security issue be bipartisan.
    Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN Thursday that even though Trump has disputed the role of Russia in the election, he believes it's important to continue the effort that is "prompt, bipartisan, not re-litigating the election, but aimed at deterring and defending against this kind of cyberespionage and cyberattack in the future."