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Intelligence analysts downplayed Chinese election influence to avoid supporting Trump policies, inspector finds

Politicization problems exist in U.S. spy agency assessments on foreign influence in the 2020 U.S. election, including analysts who appeared to hold back information on Chinese meddling efforts because they disagreed with the Trump administration's policies, according to an intelligence community inspector.

Barry Zulauf, an analytic ombudsman and longtime intelligence official, issued a 14-page report obtained by the Washington Examiner to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, revealing his investigation was “conducted in response to IC complaints regarding the election threat issue." In addition, he lamented the “polarized atmosphere has threatened to undermine the foundations of our Republic, penetrating even into the Intelligence Community.”

The intelligence community’s classified assessment on foreign influence in the 2020 election, which will not focus on claims of mail-in fraud or unfounded allegations of voting machines flipping millions of votes, was also submitted to Congress on Thursday. Expected in December, the assessment was delayed as senior intelligence officials clashed over the role played by China, and as director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe sought to include more viewpoints in the final analysis.

“Given analytic differences in the way Russia and China analysts examined their targets, China analysts appeared hesitant to assess Chinese actions as undue influence or interference. The analysts appeared reluctant to have their analysis on China brought forward because they tend to disagree with the administration’s policies, saying in effect, I don’t want our intelligence used to support those policies,” Zulauf concluded, saying this behavior violated analytic standards requiring independence from political considerations.