Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a press conference with the other House impeachment managers before the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump resumes at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.
Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – A former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security accused top officials there of ordering him to stop sharing intelligence assessments on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. election because they “made the President look bad.”
According to a whistleblower complaint filed by Brian Murphy, former head of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS, top brass also told Murphy to downplay a threat assessment about White supremacy.
The formal whistleblower complaint describes a “repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests.”
Among the most serious allegations are that acting Secretary Chad Wolf earlier this year instructed Murphy “to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.”
According to Murphy, Wolf told him the order came directly from President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, Robert O’Brien. Murphy said he refused to comply with these instructions.
Department spokesman Alexei Woltornist said DHS denies Murphy’s allegations.
Homeland Security “is working to address all threats to the homeland regardless of ideology. The Acting Secretary is focused on thwarting election interference from any foreign powers and attacks from any extremist group,” Woltornist said in a statement to CNBC.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews also denied that O’Brien tried to “dictate the Intelligence Community’s focus on threats to the integrity of our elections or on any other topic.”
“Politicizing election security, a topic on which the National Security Council has convened dozens of high-level policy meetings in recent months, through specious complaints based on false allegations, which on their face are rank hearsay, damages the national security of the United States,” Matthews said in a statement.
Murphy’s complaint also described how the routine distribution of a Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA) report was “prohibited due to concerns raised by Messrs. Wolf and (acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken) Cuccinelli regarding how the HTA would reflect upon President Trump. Two sections were specifically labeled as concerns: White Supremacy and Russian influence in the United States.”
The complaint accused Cuccinelli specifically of instructing Murphy to modify an assessment on White supremacy in order make “the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent ‘left-wing’ groups.”
The House Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday that it had received Murphy’s complaint and requested that he testify before the committee as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged intelligence manipulation at DHS.
Neither the White House nor DHS immediately responded to CNBC’s request for comment on the whistleblower complaint.
“Mr. Murphy’s allegations are serious — from senior officials suppressing intelligence reports on Russia’s election interference and making false statements to Congress about terrorism threats at our southern border, to modifying intelligence assessments to match the President’s rhetoric on Antifa and minimizing the threat posed by white supremacists,” said Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in a statement.
Schiff added that the complaint “puts into stark relief how dangerous and harmful it is for American voters that the Trump Administration has decided to end briefings to Congress about foreign interference in our upcoming election.”