The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withheld intelligence warning of Russian disinformation attacks attacking Democrat Joe Biden to promote “allegations about the poor mental health.” ABC News broke the story, which came to light after its reporters obtained internal emails and a draft of the document.
The intelligence bulletin, titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” said American intelligence determined that Russian operatives are sowing disinformation to convince the American electorate that Biden has dementia and would be unfit to serve in office. It also mentioned that Iranian and Chinese media have been raising allegations about President Donald Trump’s mental fitness.
The draft bulletin was submitted to the agency’s legislative and public affairs office for review on July 7. This information was not meant to be public, but internal emails show “it was set to be distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement partners two days later, on July 9,” according to ABC News. DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis intervened, emails show, requesting to “Please hold on sending this one out until you have a chance to speak to [acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf].” The bulletin was never circulated.
A DHS spokesperson said analysts determined with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.” They confirmed it was “delayed” because it did not meet agency standards.
President Trump has often accused Biden of being in mental decline, referring to him as “Sleepy Joe” as recently as this morning, when he claimed (wrongly) that the Republican National Convention (RNC) received more viewers than the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
Questions about Biden’s mental health have dogged him in the wake of several high profile verbal flubs, including when he claimed that the United States has seen 150 million gun deaths since 2007. (The Biden campaign later said Biden misspoke and meant to mention “150,000 people killed in firearm homicides since then.”) Biden has been open about these flubs, attributing them to his stutter. Russian operatives “refuted media claims that the candidate’s gaffes are a result of a stutter, instead arguing these verbal miscues are symptoms of dementia,” according to the draft bulletin.