SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
A developing story now that broke this afternoon. An official at the Department of Homeland Security says he was told to stop reporting on the Russian threat to the U.S. election because it would make President Trump look bad. The official makes the accusation in a formal whistleblower complaint that cites the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf. For more on this, we're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Sacha.
PFEIFFER: What are the details in this complaint?
MYRE: So it's filed by Brian Murphy. And he's a DHS official who, until recently, was at the office for intelligence and analysis. And we'll have a bit more on his job in a moment. But in this complaint, he says the acting chief of Homeland Security Chad Wolf told him twice, once in May and again in July, to withhold reporting on potential Russian threats to the election because this would cast President Trump in a bad light. Murphy says he was told to emphasize potential threats from China and Iran. And he says he was told those instructions came from White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.
PFEIFFER: And I understand there are additional accusations.
MYRE: Yeah. That's right. Murphy says there were multiple meetings this summer about downplaying the threat posed by white supremacists and focusing on radical leftist movements like in antifa. Murphy says he was instructed by Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, to, quote, "modify intelligence assessments to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump." And Murphy says he refused to do so. And his lawyer says, in a statement, that he followed proper lawful whistleblower rules in reporting serious allegations of misconduct against DHS leadership.
PFEIFFER: Any comment yet from the White House or the Department of Homeland Security?
MYRE: They have not responded to this complaint. And as we know, President Trump has repeatedly challenged intelligence assessments that Russia interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election. And Democrats say the president has been attempting to politicize the intelligence community by appointing political loyalists rather than career professionals. And the intelligence community did say in a formal statement last month and in multiple briefings with journalists that Russia is, again, trying to interfere with the election and in favor of Trump. The intelligence community has also cited some activity by China and Iran but stresses that these countries appear to be much lesser threats.
PFEIFFER: And Greg, you were going to tell us a bit more about the whistleblower Brian Murphy and his role at DHS?
MYRE: Right. So what's interesting here is he came under public criticism back in July. And at that time, The Washington Post reported that his office at Homeland Security was compiling reports about journalists covering the protests out in Portland and what they were saying on social media. And so this drew a lot of criticism. And then at the end of July, Murphy was removed from the intelligence post and demoted. And at that time, there was no indication that any of this was related to these accusations that he's making right now.
PFEIFFER: Greg, thank you. That's NPR's Greg Myre.
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