Rhode Island elector seeks intelligence report on Russian interference

Providence — An elector from Rhode Island who once worked for the Obama administration’s National Security Council is taking a leadership role in calling on federal intelligence agencies to release more information about possible Russian interference to help elect Donald Trump as president.

Democrat Clay Pell said the 538 members of the Electoral College should be provided with an intelligence briefing before they choose the next U.S. president on Monday.

“This issue is entirely unprecedented, to my knowledge — to have a foreign government intervene in an election, or try to intervene, and then not even to know the full level of facts,” Pell said.

Pell was one of 10 electors who sent a letter this week seeking information from U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The list of electors who have signed the letter has now grown to 40, though only one is a Republican.

The letter was drafted by Christine Pelosi, a California elector and daughter of Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, following news reports about the CIA’s conclusion that Russia likely sought to influence the U.S. election on behalf of Trump. Christine Pelosi said Tuesday afternoon that electors still are awaiting word from federal intelligence officials.

Several of the electors are from New England states where the popular vote went for Democrat Hillary Clinton, including all four of New Hampshire’s Democratic electors and four from Massachusetts. Jason Palitsch said he still plans to pick Clinton on Monday but believes electors should get more information.

“Under normal circumstances our role is to cast our votes as they were pledged,” said Palitsch, an elector from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. “But I would consider the information that came to light over the weekend with regard to foreign interference in our election to be extreme.”

Pell, a Clinton supporter, former Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate and grandson of late Democratic U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, said his concerns go beyond party politics and are about the “integrity of the democratic process and the provision of all the relevant information to the electors to carry out our constitutional duty.”

He said there’s no reason national intelligence can’t be provided in an “appropriate format to electors.” Pell worked as a strategic planning director in the White House’s National Security Council.

“These are uncharged waters,” he said. “This is a new reality for all of us. What I am trying to do is to be prudent and get this information so that we have it so that years down the line something doesn’t come up that we all should have known at this point in time.”

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