The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withheld intelligence that suggests Russia is engaged in efforts to promote “allegations about the poor mental health” of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, according to a report published Wednesday.
The information was contained in an intelligence bulletin that was to be disseminated to law enforcement, and was submitted to the agency’s legislative and public affairs office July 7, according to ABC News, which obtained a copy of the document and internal emails.
It was to be distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies July 9, but one hour after it was submitted, DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis sent an email asking for it to be held until Acting Secretary Chad Wolf could review its contents.
It has yet to be published in the nearly two months that have passed.
A DHS spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that the document was “delayed,” saying it failed to meet DHS standards.
DHS “generally does not comment on leaked documents, this particular draft product lacked the necessary context and evidence for broader dissemination outside of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis,” the anonymous spokesman said.
The intelligence bulletin concluded with a “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.”
Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, said the “high level” of confidence that the document describes “means what it sounds like.”
“They are highly confident that their assessment is accurate and they don’t use that language very often,” she told ABC News.
The decision to withhold the intelligence assessment comes as US President Donald Trump seeks to stave off Biden ahead of nationwide elections Nov. 3.
Trump and his campaign team have repeatedly sought to denigrate Biden’s mental acuity, with Trump retweeting a post Tuesday that accuses Biden of having “manifest dementia.”
In response to a question from ABC News, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said, “We don’t need or want any foreign interference.”
“There’s no question that the President has been tougher on Russia than any president before him, imposing sanctions and expelling diplomats, in contrast to the Obama-Biden Administration, which choked in the face of Russian interference,” he said. “President Trump will beat Joe Biden fair and square.”
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