If two nearly simultaneous hearings Wednesday by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election revealed anything, it’s that U.S. officials saw what was going on but were all but powerless to stop it. In his prepared remarks, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Russian government, “at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our Nation for the purpose of influencing our election — plain and simple.” But in response to a question from the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Johnson said he was concerned he would be criticized “for perhaps taking sides” in an ongoing election if he publicly spoke out about the Russian meddling that he knew was going on.
One of the candidates, Johnson said, not naming but clearly referring to Donald Trump, “was predicting that the election was going to be rigged,” Johnson said, and so we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process.”
Johnson said that on October 7, he and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement accusing the Russian government of interfering with the U.S. election process — a claim Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied. But that statement he said “did not get the attention it should have,” because of the release of the Access Hollywood tape that day — in which then-candidate Trump boasted of groping and kissing women.