President Trump's claims that the 2016 election would be "rigged" caused the Department of Homeland Security to hold back on giving too much information to the public about Russian interference in the campaign, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday.
Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee the Obama administration was in a rough place when deciding how much to tell the public about Russia's activities during the campaign. The outgoing administration didn't want to seem like it had its thumb on the scales for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, when Trump was claiming regularly the election would be rigged.
"One of the candidates was predicting the election would be rigged in some way," he said, "so we were concerned that making a statement that we would be in and of itself challenging the integrity of the election process."
Trump regularly claimed during the end of the campaign that the process would be rigged against him.
While Johnson released a statement in early October warning that Russia was working to interfere in the election, intelligence officials did not say until after the vote that their aim was to help Trump in his campaign against Clinton.
It's the opinion of the intelligence community that the Russians interfered in the campaign to hurt Clinton's chances of being elected, and then developed a preference for Trump.
Johnson pushed back against California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff's assertion that the Department of Homeland Security delayed in communicating the seriousness of Russia's interference to the public. He listed a litany of public statements he released in September and October before the vote and said he couldn't be as forthright as possible due to the nature of the investigation.
"Many would perhaps criticize us for taking sides," he said.