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US official claims pressure to downplay intel reports

Washington, A senior US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that he was pressured to downplay the threat of Russian election interference as it “made the President look bad”, it was reported.

In a whistleblower reprisal complaint, the official, Brian Murphy said he was demoted for refusing to alter reports and that the directives were illegal, the BBC reported late Wednesday.

Filed on Tuesday, it was released on Wednesday by the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee, which has asked Murphy to testify to Congress later this month.

The complaint features a number of allegations against former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, current Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli.

Murphy has alleged that between March 2018 and August 2020, there was 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 US interests”.

In May, the official claimed that he was instructed by Wolf to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference… and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran”.

These instructions came directly from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Nielsen knowingly provided “false material information” about known or suspected terrorists apprehended at the border during testimony before two House committees, in December 2018 and March 2019, the BBC reported.

It also detailed a clash with Cuccinelli over a report in May into the threat posed by white supremacist groups, claiming that he ordered changes “in a manner that made the threat appear less severe”.

But the White House and DHS denied the claims.

On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said the allegations were “false and defamatory”, while DHS spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said the Department “denies that there is any truth to the merits of Murphy’s claim”.

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