Whistleblower Accuses DHS of Downplaying Russian Election Interference Threat

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Aug. 28, 2020, in Londonderry, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

WASHINGTON (CN) — A whistleblower complaint released Wednesday claims Department of Homeland Security leaders pressured intelligence officials to downplay details that conflict with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric such as Russian election interference and threats posed by white supremacists. 

Top DHS intelligence analyst Brian Murphy filed a complaint with the agency’s inspector general on Tuesday, alleging he was demoted for refusing to modify intelligence assessments as recommended by the Trump appointees in charge.

According to the complaint, Murphy filed several disclosures, including a few that were “regarding 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.” 

From 2018 to the end of July 2020, Murphy was Principal Deputy Under Secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis before he was demoted to the role of Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary for the DHS Management Division in August.

Murphy’s demotion followed years of his submitting disclosures to the Office of Inspector General, a government watchdog agency. 

Among these disclosures were claims that then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen provided false information to Congress in 2018 about the number of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border and that her deputies pressed him to exaggerate the number of migrants with links to terrorism detained at the border. 

“Mr. Murphy’s protected disclosures involve violations of federal law and regulations, as well as abuses of authority” that were allegedly conducted by Nielsen, current acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, according to the complaint.

Murphy claims that Wolf, who was nominated to by Trump, directed him to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference because it “made the President look bad.”

“Mr. Murphy’s reasonable belief is premised on the fact there were a limited number of witnesses who would have been present in the meetings where the information was discussed that underlay the allegations in the first OIG complaint,” the complaint says, explaining why Murphy believes his demotion was retaliatory. 

“The whistleblower reprisal complaint depicts a sustained and disturbing pattern of misconduct by senior Trump administration officials within the White House and DHS,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff wrote in a statement on Wednesday. 

In addition to his claims about Nielsen, Murphy said Cuccinelli had directed him to alter a section of a report on white supremacy in order to make the threat appear less severe. 

He claims he was also urged to include information on left-wing groups in the report to echo Trump’s rhetoric surrounding civil unrest following protests over the killing of George Floyd.

Last year, during a meeting over intelligence reports that were designed to help asylum officers render better determinations regarding their legal standards, Murphy says Cuccinelli “expressed frustration with the intelligence reports, and he accused unknown ‘deep state intelligence analysts’ of compiling the intelligence information to undermine President Donald J. Trump’s policy objectives with respect to asylum.”

Cuccinelli requested changes to that report, which had highlighted poor conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to Murphy.  

Schiff, who had released the complaint on Wednesday, said he asked Murphy to testify before Congress about his observations.

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