'American voters should decide American elections - not Putin': Trump accused of threatening democracy after fresh warnings over Russian interference

Alex Woodward
President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Russian president Vladimir Putin, left, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan 28 June 2019: Susan Walsh/AP

US intelligence officials warned Congress that Russia plans to interfere in 2020 Democratic elections and challenges in November, but officials in Moscow are dismissing the allegations as "paranoid" while Washington leaders condemn Donald Trump's reported efforts to dismiss the threat.

Following a 13 February briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, the president reportedly berated the national intelligence director for allowing the hearing to take place, which allowed his Democratic impeachment foes to hear testimony about foreign interference similar to the Russian efforts at the centre of an investigation in 2016.

That investigation led to the indictments and prosecutions of several of the president's aides and associates, as well as several Russians and Russian companies.

According to the New York Times, the president's allies defended Mr Trump at the hearing as acting intelligence director Joseph Maguire laid out Russian plans to sow chaos and undermine US elections through social media and cyber attacks, among other tools, intended to disrupt the electoral process and stir division among voters preparing to elect the next president and other seats across the US.

On Wednesday, the president announced that Richard Grenell, the current US ambassador to Germany and a staunch supporter of the president, will replace Mr Maguire as acting director.

The president suggested that Georgia Republican Congressman Doug Collins - who invoked a fierce defence of the president during his impeachment - could be considered for the permanent job.

Mr Trump announced on Twitter: "I will be nominating a terrific candidate for the job very soon ... Stay tuned!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "American voters should decide American elections - not Vladimir Putin".

She urged congress to "condemn the president's reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy [and] to politicize our intel community".

In a message on Thursday night, California congressman and impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff said: "We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress of any threat of foreign interference in our elections. If reports are true and the President is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling. Exactly as we warned he would do."

Congress will hold a briefing on election security on 10 March.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov brushed off the allegations, saying that intelligence officials' warning are "more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the election".

"They have nothing to do with the truth", he said.

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