(CNN)The Department of Homeland Security in July withheld an intelligence bulletin warning of a Russian plot to spread misinformation regarding Joe Biden‘s mental health, according to a report from ABC News on Wednesday.
In a draft of the bulletin obtained by the network titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” analysts said 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,” according to ABC News. The bulletin also raised efforts by China and Iran to criticize President Donald Trump, the network reported.
The bulletin was submitted July 7 to the DHS legislative and public affairs office for review and, according to emails obtained by ABC News, was to be distributed to state, federal and local law enforcement, but not to the public, on July 9. Emails also show, according to the network, that DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis stopped the bulletin from being sent out.
“Please hold on sending this one out until you have a chance to speak to [acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf],” Gountanis wrote, ABC News reported.
A spokesperson for DHS told CNN in a statement Wednesday that while the agency does not comment on leaked documents, “this particular draft product 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 spokesperson said. “These quality concerns in the work process and tradecraft of I&A were also at issue last month when the Acting Secretary took action to remove I&A leadership.”
The spokesperson also said the office of intelligence and analysis is “committed to fulfilling its mission to keep the Homeland safe and secure which included the sharing of three reports on election security in August 2020 with state and local partners.”
News of the blocked intelligence bulletin comes nearly two months before the 2020 presidential election and amid concern over Russian interference in the election.
In August, US intelligence officials presented information to lawmakers and presidential campaigns signaling that Russia is behind an ongoing disinformation push targeting the former vice president. William R. Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center and the US intelligence community’s top election security official, also said in August that Russia is working to “denigrate” former Biden’s White House bid and China “prefers” an outcome where Trump is not reelected.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.