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No evidence of Russian 'play' to help Trump; briefer may have 'overstated' intelligence, official says

Contrary to numerous recent media reports, there is no evidence to suggest that Russia is making a specific "play" to boost President Trump's reelection bid, a U.S. intelligence official told Fox News on Sunday.

In addition, top U.S. election official Shelby Pierson, who briefed Congress on Russian election interference efforts, may have overstated intelligence regarding the issue when speaking to the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month, the source added.

U.S. intelligence officials have publicly testified only that the Russians have been using "information warfare" ahead of the election. Fox News is told Democrats pressed Pierson on whether Russia was trying to help Trump, and accurate context or perspective to her responses failed to emerge.

Intelligence agencies have made great strides in preventing Russian interference this year, Fox News also was told.

Republican lawmakers who were in the Pierson briefing noted that Trump has taken on Russia in numerous ways, one official present told The Associated Press. The White House has opposed Russia's major proposed pipeline in Germany, provided deadly arms to Ukraine and accused Russia of violating key arms treaties, among other measures.

The whiplash came as fears of Russian intervention have gripped the 2020 presidential race following an unverified report by The New York Times and CNN that Russia wanted to help Trump, which CNN has since walked back.

Then, it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials had briefed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia was trying to help his campaign too, although it was unclear how or why the alleged support for the self-described democratic socialist was occurring.

Pierson told NPR in an interview that aired last month that the Russians “are already engaging in influence operations relative to candidates going into 2020. But we do not have evidence at this time that our adversaries are directly looking at interfering with vote counts or the vote tallies.”

Pierson, appointed in July 2019 by then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, has worked with intelligence agencies including the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to identify anyone seeking to interfere with U.S. elections.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing people familiar with her work, that Pierson "has a reputation for being injudicious with her words and not appreciating the delicate work of corralling federal agencies, technology firms and state election officials to collaborate on election security."

Pierson told NPR that the U.S. didn’t know exactly what the Russians were planning, but she said it’s not just a Russia problem. “We’re still also concerned about China, Iran, non-state actors, hacktivists and frankly — certainly for DHS and FBI - even Americans that might be looking to undermine confidence in the elections.” Read More

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