Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, struggled during a pair of Sunday morning talk show appearances as he was grilled relentlessly over the White House’s assertion that Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire wasn’t fired over a House briefing on Russian interference in the 2020 election to assist President Donald Trump.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, after host Chris Wallace asked why Trump was attacking Democrats over the Russia story, Short insisted early on that “there’s no intelligence that said the Russians are trying to help Donald Trump win elections,” prompting Wallace to immediately push back.
“I know that’s the White House argument,” Wallace stated. “There is a consistent story that came out this week and we’ve heard it from members of the committee, from members of the intelligence community, we’ve heard it from people in your own White House.”
The Fox News anchor noted that intelligence community official Shelby Pierson briefed Congress on Russia’s latest interference attempt to help Trump, which eventually resulted in Trump firing Maguire and replacing him with Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who has very little intelligence experience.
“You say none of this happened?” Wallace pressed Short.
Short, meanwhile, argued that it’s “disconcerting” that they were discussing a classified briefing, accusing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) of leaking details to the press. (The president has made similar claims since this story broke.)
“You can’t say it didn't happen and then say they leaked it!" Wallace pushed back, adding: “You’re denying that Shelby Pierson, who is the election security czar, you’re denying that under questioning from Democrats, she gave any indication that the Russian efforts to meddle in the election was because they have found a preference for President Trump?”
The two briefly went back and forth, with Wallace pressing the White House aide over his contradictory arguments before finally declaring: “I don’t understand, you’re saying it’s not true and they leaked it!”
Short also faced heat in a separate interview with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, who also took issue with Short roundly dismissing the notion that Russia is looking to aid Trump in the 2020 election.
Todd, for his part, wanted to know why the president wasn’t concerned about Russia interference, prompting Short to deflect and insist that the administration had made moves to improve overall election security. When Todd continued to grill him on the subject, noting that Trump’s de facto response is to say Democrats are making it all up, Short eventually claimed Trump is frustrated with intel briefings because Schiff will leak it out and distort it.
“So what you’re saying is because he believes it could get leaked, he’s not going to essentially inform the legislative branch of what’s happening?” Todd wondered aloud, adding: “What does that do to enhance security? Doesn’t it undermine the very thing you’re telling me you’re doing?”
Short, meanwhile, contended that Trump’s “frustration remains more with Adam Schiff and those in the House Intelligence Committee who will not take the information honestly and will not represent it honestly.”
Elsewhere in the Meet the Press interview, Short repeatedly insisted that Maguire was not dismissed due to the briefing, claiming his end date as acting director was March 12 and that he was going to be replaced soon anyway.
Todd, however, pointed out that Trump could have nominated Maguire to take the job permanently, prompting Short to wave off that idea, saying he never heard from anyone that the acting director was ever in consideration for the position.
Short wasn’t the White House’s only representative on the Sunday shows arguing that Trump did not fire Maguire because his briefer told Congress that Russia wanted to help him. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien also made the case in multiple appearances, further asserting that there’s “zero intelligence” supporting claims that Russia is boosting Trump.
O’Brien did, however, noted that it would be “no surprise” that the Kremlin preferred Democratic presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders since the Vermont senator “honeymooned in Moscow.” Sanders, meanwhile, has blamed Grenell for leaking details about a briefing he received a month ago informing him that Russia was meddling on his behalf in the Democratic primary.
Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here