Marc Short, chief of staff to Mike Pence, was very cagey trying to claim there’s nothing to see here about Russia favoring Trump for 2020 on Fox News Sunday today. But underneath his attempt to paint the news as Democratic misinformation was a very clear non-denial that a high-level intelligence official thinks otherwise.
Short first told host Chris Wallace that there isn't any intelligence that Russians are trying to help Trump.
SHORT: Chris, I think that there's not intelligence that said that the Russians are trying to help Donald Trump win election.
We know that foreign governments have been trying to interfere in elections to try to sow chaos. They've been doing that for many years, and it's not just limited to Russia. But there's not intelligence that suggests that they're trying to help Trump.
Short quickly segued into presenting Trump into a heroic fighter against Russian interference, unlike Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
But Wallace went back to the point.
WALLACE: I know that that's the White House argument, that there is no -- there is no intelligence saying this, but there is a consistent story that came out this week and we've heard it from members of the committee, the Intelligence Committee, we've heard it from members of the intelligence community, we've heard it from people in your own White House, and that is that Shelby Pierson, who is the intelligence community's election securities czar, told Congress that the Russians are trying to help Donald Trump. The specific words she used are "developed a preference for President Trump."
The president's reaction was to call in her boss, acting DNI Chief Joe Maguire, who spent 40 years first as a Navy SEAL and then in counterintelligence, to fire him and to replace him with Ambassador Richard Grenell, a Trump partisan, who has almost no intelligence experience.
You say none of this happened?
Short responded by attacking the leak of “selective information” from “Adam Schiff’s committee.” Never mind that it was reportedly Devin Nunes who ran to the White House with the information. But notice that while Short denied Trump was briefed that Russia is trying to help him, Short never denied that Pierson, under Democratic questioning before the House Intelligence Committee, said Russia favors Trump.
SHORT: Let me correct you on several fronts, Chris.
First of all, I think it's disconcerting that the briefing that you mentioned was a classified briefing in the House. That's one of the president's concerns, is that Adam Schiff's committee continues to leak selectively information.
WALLACE: I know. But you can't say it didn't happen and then say they leaked it.
SHORT: Yes, I am saying it didn’t happen, because I am saying what happened as far as the briefing -- the same briefing the president gets on election security, we've able to outline what we've done, measures we've worked with 1,100 municipalities to secure election results and the intelligence community not giving us information that they're trying to help reelect Donald Trump --
WALLACE: I just want to be clear on this, you're denying -- wait a second, you're denying that Shelby Pierson, who's the election security czar - you're denying that under questioning from Democrats, she gave any indication that the Russian efforts to meddle in election was because they have found a preference for President Trump? You're flatly denying that?
SHORT: That was a classified briefing. I'm not going to comment specifically on what she said in that --
WALLACE: Well, you did -- no, wait a minute, you did just classify it and said there's no intelligence.
SHORT: I'm telling you the briefing of the president received that I've -- that I was a party to, and that's not information that came out of the briefing the president got on election security, Chris.
WALLACE: But you're not denying -- you're not denying that that was part of the briefing -- that she gave to the committee?
SHORT: I'm telling you that whatever briefing -- whatever briefing she gave to the committee was supposed to be classified. And once again, Adam Schiff's committee is selectively leaking out information and often distorting information. It's our belief. They've done it many times.
WALLACE: I don't understand, you're saying it's not true and they leaked it?
SHORT: No, Chris, this is pretty consistent and I think pretty clear. What I'm telling you is that -- is that was a classified briefing that shouldn't have been discussed. The briefing the president received -- the intelligence community has not told us that Russia is trying to reelect Donald Trump.
Later, Short admitted he didn’t know what the Intelligence Committee was told. Oh, and it’s possible that Nunes blabbed to Trump:
SHORT: I want to be clear as well, that the briefing with the president is in a classified environment, too, Chris. I'm not giving details about what was said and what wasn't said. But as far as the question about is there information that says that Russia is trying to elect Donald Trump, that is false information, as far as the briefing that we've received.
WALLACE: But you don't know about the House briefing?
SHORT: I -- of course not.
WALLACE: And no -- well, no member of the House told the president?
SHORT: Well, the members of the House have had separate conversations with president, but it's clear that Adam Schiff's committee decided to leak to the press once again to try to continue to foment the same sort of Russian hoax they've been doing for three years, Chris.
But that was not the only boatload of manure Short dumped on viewers. He claimed that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was not fired, that he was replaced temporarily by the (completely unqualified) Ric Grenell because Maguire was going to leave anyway by March 12th, even though this is still February. Yet when asked if Maguire had been told to clear out by the next morning, Short did not deny it.
WALLACE: If you have such respect for Joe Maguire, why was he not only -- let me finish the question -- why was he not only fired, but told to clear out by 9:00 the next morning?
SHORT: Chris, it's not firing. His position is supposed to be completed by March 12th. He's not going to be re-nominated.
He, in fact, when this position came on was reluctant to serve in this role. So, the administration has been looking for somebody consistently.
Ric Grenell is gonna now serve in a temporary capacity. The president's announced he's going to look to have a more permanent replacement.
WALLACE: Was Maguire told to clear out your office the next day?
SHORT: I don't know if Maguire was told or not, I have not heard that.
You can watch Short’s dissembling below, from the February 23, 2020 Fox News Sunday.