A draft Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that warned of Russian efforts to question the health of President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was never disseminated because it was of poor quality and lacked context, DHS officials said Wednesday.
The July 7 memo, originally drafted by DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis and obtained by Fox News, found 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 elections.”
“We base this assessment on the pattern of overt Russian state media and covert proxy websites amplifying allegations of poor mental and physical health of 2020 and 2016 presidential candidates,” the memo said. “Russian state media and proxy websites often wrap these allegations with other claims denigrating US media, democratic institutions and global standing.”
A DHS source told Fox News that the memo was never disseminated because it was of poor quality and didn’t “make the bar” of what should be widely circulated among various agencies.
The memo was first reported by ABC News, which also reported that the analysis was not meant for public consumption but was set to be distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement partners two days later.
The document excerpt is designated “FOUO,” shorthand for For Official Use Only, and while it is technically an unclassified document, the FOUO designation indicates that dissemination beyond or outside the federal government by a source is illegal.
ABC reported that DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis asked for officials to hold off on sending it out until acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was consulted, and the memo was never circulated.
A DHS spokesman said in a statement that the draft “lacked the necessary context and evidence for broader dissemination outside of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A).”
“After briefing the Acting Secretary and he asked questions, I&A career leadership decided to delay the product for further review,” the spokesman said, noting that those concerns in the work of I&A were an issue last month when Wolf removed the office’s acting undersecretary.
The memo warned that Russian actors had taken a similar approach in 2016, raising questions about then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s health, and there was evidence that Russian actors had done that already with Biden. It gave the example of a website in March claiming that Biden’s gaffes were symptoms of dementia.
The intelligence community has warned of efforts by foreign actors, including Russia, to meddle in the election. Last month, the intelligence community warned that Russia was working to denigrate Biden, while Iran was seeking to undermine Trump. China, meanwhile “prefers” that Trump does not win in November, the community said.