Democratic leaders in the House and Senate wrote to FBI Director Chris Wray requesting a “defensive counterintelligence briefing” for all members about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election, according to a copy of the letter released Monday.
The letter, which is dated July 13 was signed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Adam Schiff. It cites concerns that Congress is being targeted by “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.”
A congressional official told CNN on Monday that to ensure “a clear and unambiguous record of the counterintelligence threats of concern,” the four Democratic lawmakers included a classified addendum “that draws, in large part, from the Executive Branch’s own reporting and analysis.”
“The counterintelligence experts at the FBI must provide the full Congress with a defensive counterintelligence briefing on these threats before the August recess,” the official added.
The letter comes as Gen. Paul Nakasone, the top official at both the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command, warned Monday that the US is seeing a “rise in capacity” and “capability” of cyber programs from major foreign adversaries, including Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
“Our adversaries know that this is a means upon which that they can attempt to have an impact on us and so we’ve seen the growth in terms of programs across all those major adversaries,” he said. “We’ve also seen a rise in capability. And so much in the same way, we’ve become a much more capable force, so are our adversaries. And so I would tell you whether or not it’s China or it’s Iran, or it’s North Korea, this is why it’s so important that we are in a daily competition with what we need to do and I would say the advantages we have are often not talked about.”
“Our number one goal, our number one objective at the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command is a safe, secure and legitimate 2020 elections,” Nakasone added, noting that relevant agencies will act when they see foreign adversaries attempting to interfere in the democratic process.
While the letter does not mention Russia specifically, Democrats in Congress have already raised concerns that Russia will once again interfere in the 2020 election – and that President Donald Trump, who has refused to agree with the intelligence community that Russia interfered to help his campaign in 2016, will take sufficient steps to combat the issue.
And Democrats have already clashed with the Trump administration over Russia’s interference. The intelligence community’s top election security official briefed lawmakers in February that the intelligence community believed Russia was already taking steps to interfere in the 2020 election with the goal of helping Trump win, though the administration quickly backtracked, saying there was evidence Russia was interfering, but not that the Kremlin had a goal of helping Trump get reelected.
The incident helped lead to the removal of Joseph Maguire as acting director of national intelligence, who was replaced by Trump loyalist Richard Grenell.
Grenell served in the role in an acting capacity for several months before GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas was confirmed by the Senate as a permanent director of national intelligence in May.
In his final hours as the top US intelligence official, Grenell took one last swipe at congressional Democrats, accusing Warner of “cherry picking certain documents for release” for political reasons.
He also declassified more documents tied to the origins of the Russia investigation before leaving the post, actions that were emblematic of a short but consequential and controversial tenure as the acting director of national intelligence.
Since his confirmation, Ratcliffe has attempted to transition from being one of the President’s key defenders to leading an intelligence community that has been under constant fire from Trump, who has pushed unsubstantiated claims about a “deep state” of career officials trying to undermine his presidency.
Ratcliffe will play an essential role in deciding what documents are released publicly in the middle of an election amid expanding congressional investigations that are targeting Obama administration officials and Trump’s 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
He will also be leading the intelligence community’s response to foreign election meddling in the 2020 election.
Ratcliffe has been unequivocal that he believes Russia has interfered in US elections and will continue to do so – but he has not sided with one of the intelligence community’s key findings: that Russia was trying to help Trump in 2016.
The letter sent to Wray by top Democrats on Monday is not addressed to Ratcliffe but he is copied along with Nakasone and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that the letter to Wray was sent last week and released on Monday.
CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.