Washington — With the transition for President-elect Joe Biden formally underway, the incoming president is now getting “all of the same intelligence” as President Trump, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told CBS News in an interview Thursday.
“He’s getting all of the same intelligence,” Ratcliffe said. “He’s getting full security briefings from my office, which briefs the president, now briefs Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They are receiving full classified briefings.”
Ratcliffe also told CBS News the intelligence community has not “been able to determine” any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change the result of the election. But he sounded the alarm on China, calling it the country’s “greatest adversary.” Beijing, he said, is willing to use blackmail, bribery and covert and overt influence to ensure the U.S. enacts laws favorable to it.
While Mr. Biden was projected the winner of the presidential election on November 7 as he cleared the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, the formal start of his transition was delayed due to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) decision not to swiftly ascertain him as the likely winner of the election.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said at the time it would not have contact with Mr. Biden’s transition team until notified by the head of the GSA, delaying the president-elect’s access to the President’s Daily Brief, a daily summary of intelligence that contains the nation’s most sensitive information. The GSA has since kicked off the formal transition process, and Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris began receiving the daily brief on Monday.
Ratcliffe declined to say whether Mr. Biden and Harris have asked for intelligence on any specific topics, but said his office has “afforded every request.”
While Mr. Biden has begun shaping his national security, foreign policy and economic teams, and announced those who will serve in key White House roles, Mr. Trump has yet to concede and instead continues to allege the presidential election was rife with fraud. Numerous state and federal courts, however, have rejected claims of fraud raised by the president’s campaign, and more than three dozen states have certified their election results.
Pressed on whether intelligence shows any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change the result of the election, Ratcliffe indicated it does not.
“Not that we’ve been able to determine,” he said. “Now at this point in time, we’re still analyzing all of the intelligence.”
Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman from Texas, also noted that voter fraud is an area covered more by agencies such as the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, and the FBI.
“I can’t tell you the specific information that I give the president,” he said. “But voter fraud is not an issue for the intelligence community, per se. That’s a domestic law enforcement issue.”
In the run-up to the November general election, top national security and intelligence officials, including Ratcliffe, warned of possible foreign interference in the electoral contest. Days before voters headed to the polls November 3, Ratcliffe appeared alongside FBI Director Chris Wray to warn of efforts by Iran and Russia to try to compromise the election, including by sendingto voters in Florida, and said the countries had obtained some voter registration data.
In addition to Iran and Russia, the Trump administration also warned of attempts by China to interfere.
In an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Ratcliffe called China “national security threat No. 1” and revealed it is targeting members of Congress with six times the frequency of Russia and 12 times the frequency of Iran.
“They want laws and policies out of the United States that are favorable to China,” Ratcliffe told CBS News. “And what they’re really trying to do is through blackmail, through bribery, through overt and covert influence, trying to make sure that only laws that are favorable to China are passed.”
Ratcliffe said he was “troubled” by what he has seen in his post as director of national intelligence, and it drove him to brief both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, “which they found surprising and troubling.”
“We need to recognize China for the threat that they are. It’s the greatest threat that this country has faced since World War II. It’s our greatest challenge,” he said. “Every generation has a challenge — Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain. This generation’s challenge is China’s intent to replace the United States as the world’s superpower.”
Delivering a message to Mr. Biden’s team, Ratcliffe called China the nation’s “greatest adversary.”
“They have threatened the U.S. way of life,” he said. “We’ve seen that with COVID, that is a result of the actions of the Chinese Communist Party. Americans’ lives have already been impacted irreparably as a result of China’s actions. They’re just beginning. It’s going to get worse.”
First published on December 3, 2020 / 3:02 PM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.