Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, in the summer before the election, obstructed a bipartisan warning of Russia’s actions to the American public, former Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough revealed on Meet The Press Sunday.
During the interview, McDonough gave a wee bit more light on one of the most puzzling single incidents in the government attempts to warn the public of a campaign of Russian propaganda and espionage efforts bent at altering the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Transcript, according to the Daily Kos:
CHUCK TODD: Do you stand by what [former Vice President Joe Biden] said, that Mitch McConnell is the reason why everything was a lower grade, sort of everything that you did in ’16, that you couldn’t be as robust in a bipartisan sense because Mitch McConnell didn’t sign on?
DENIS MCDONOUGH: What I know is that the intelligence community approached the entire leadership of the Congress […] Several members of that group did not take the briefing until early September, 2016. Indication number one of a lack of urgency.
Number two, the president asked the four leaders in a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office to join him in asking the states to work with us on this question. It took over three weeks to get that statement worked out. It was dramatically watered down. You can ask Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, even the speaker–
TODD: And it was watered down on the insistence of Mitch McConnell?
TODD: And nobody else?
TODD: Okay. Do you have any understanding as to why?
MCDONOUGH: I don’t.
As reported by Daily Kos, President Obama had specifically summoned the top House and Senate leaders in an effort to gain their endorsement for what the White House envisioned as a bipartisan government-issued public warning of the Russian hacking efforts; this was done after an alarmed CIA Director John Brennan had sought out the top lawmakers for individual classified briefings on the subject:
In an Aug. 25 briefing for Harry Reid, then the top Democrat in the Senate, Mr. Brennan indicated that Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election, according to two former officials with knowledge of the briefing.
The officials said Mr. Brennan also indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election. The F.B.I. and two congressional committees are now investigating that claim, focusing on possible communications and financial dealings between Russian affiliates and a handful of former advisers to Mr. Trump. So far, no proof of collusion has emerged publicly. […]
But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, resisted, questioning the underpinnings of the intelligence, according to officials with knowledge of the discussions.
The report calls into question McConnell’s motives as to why he eagerly dismissed the intelligence community’s conclusions on the Russian hacking, and its dangers, and possible ties to members of the Trump campaign team.
Why did he warn Obama that, if the White House made public the original, non-watered-down versions, he would publicly call that effort partisan?
McConnell was apparently alone in both his skepticism and his insistence that the matter not be elevated to the extent that the U.S. intelligence community desired.
Like McDonough, we simply don’t know why. As of yet, McConnell has never offered an explanation for his obstructions.