Report: Russia Does Not Appear To Be Actively Working For Trump Reelection. National Security Adviser O’Brien Agrees

CBS News

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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Russia does not appear to be actively working to reelect President Donald Trump, according to a report that says an intelligence briefer likely exaggerated Russia’s purported preferences.

Three national security officials said the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee was overstated, according to a CNN report on Sunday. That’s an assessment that National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien agreed with during an interview Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 19, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 19, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The official who briefed the committee, Shelby Pierson, suggested that Russia not only preferred Trump win the next U.S. presidential election, but was working to get it done in some way. But sources told CNN that the U.S. has no proof that Russian interference is specifically working towards a Trump victory. (RELATED: Eric Swalwell Suggets Russian Support For Bernie Sanders Might Implicate Trump As ‘An Agent Of Russia)

“The intelligence doesn’t say that,” one senior national security official told the network. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.”
That assessment was reinforced on Sunday when National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien spoke to CBS News.

“What I heard from the FBI is that Russia would like [Independent Vermont Sen.] Bernie Sanders to win the Democrat nomination and probably like him to be president, understandably, because he wants to spend money on social programs and probably have to take it out of the military,” O’Brien said. “That would make sense. Look, the Russians have always tried to interfere with elections. They want to divide Americans, they want to undermine our democracy. But the idea they want … the president to win,  I just don’t see it.”

O’Brien reiterated during the interview that he has received no information that Russia is trying to get Trump reelected and said former Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire did not confirm it either.

“I haven’t seen that, and again, why would they have a preference for Trump who is rebuilding our military, who is giving Ukrainians lethal aid to fight Russian troops?” O’Brien asked.

Rather, the intelligence allegedly points to Russia trying to induce discord in general.

O’Brien said he has not seen any “active measures” that indicate Russia wants Trump reelected. But he did say he has a message for anyone trying to interfere with any U.S. election on any candidate’s behalf: “stay out of our democratic elections.” (RELATED: Trey Gowdy Doesn’t Believe That Russia Would Help Trump Against Bernie Sanders)

The allegations have prompted failed 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to again call the president “Putin’s puppet.”

The CNN report suggested that Pierson exaggerated Russia’s role when he responded to partisan questions from Democrats who are  anxious to find evidence of Russian support for Trump.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Another intelligence official told the network that Pierson’s briefing was “misleading” and said Pierson did not offer the “nuance” to accurately state the conclusions of U.S. intelligence.

Trump on Saturday accused Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and the man who led the impeachment inquiry against the president, of leaking the intelligence briefing to the media.