White House national security adviser Robert OBrien said he has seen no evidence of Russia interfering in the 2020 election to help President Donald Trump, according to an interview aired on ABC on Feb. 23.
OBrien was responding to anonymously sourced media reports which claimed that the intelligence community told lawmakers in a briefing that Russia is interfering to help re-elect Trump.
“I havent seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump reelected,” OBrien told ABC. “I think this is the same old story that weve heard before.”
“Weve been very tough on Russia, and weve been great on election security. So I think its a nonstory.”
OBrien is not the only one disputing the media report of the intelligence briefing. Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, told Fox News in an interview aired on Feb. 23 that there is no evidence that Russia favors Trumps re-election.
“I think theres not intelligence that said the Russians are trying to help Donald Trump win [the] election,” Short told Fox. “We know that foreign governments have been trying to interfere in elections to sow chaos.”
According to The New York Times, the briefing was provided to House lawmakers, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) who led the House impeachment inquiry. Reports about the briefing were followed by the resignations of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire and the number two DNI official Andrew Hallman.
OBrien said that Maguires exit had nothing to do with the intelligence briefing.
“First of all, Joe Maguire wasnt pushed out,” OBrien said. “He was serving under the Vacancy Act. He was acting, and his term, I believe, was ending March 11 or March 2, like two weeks from now.”
Election Threats Executive Shelby Pierson was reportedly the person to voice the assessment that Russia was helping Trump. Lawmakers at the briefing reportedly pressed Pierson for evidence, but she did not provide any.
Then-DNI Dan Coats created the Election Threats Executive position at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and appointed Pierson shortly before he resigned. The whistleblower who triggered the impeachment process referenced the Coats memo in his or her anonymous complaint. The ODNI has refused to release the memo, which is not classified.