U.S. report says Russia, not China, tried to influence 2020 election
Russia’s government tried to seed the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign with “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” against then-candidate Joe Biden through allies of former President Trump and his administration, U.S. intelligence officials said on Tuesday. The assessment was made in a 15-page report into election interference published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It underscores allegations that Trump’s allies were playing into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Biden defeated Trump and took office on Jan. 20.
U.S. intelligence agencies found other attempts to sway voters, including a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran intended to undercut Trump’s support. The report also punctures a counter-narrative pushed by Trump’s allies that China was interfering on Biden’s behalf, concluding that Beijing “did not deploy interference efforts.”
“China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught,” the report said.
U.S. officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to influence the election, although “in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran.”
U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded that Russia also interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump’s candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its declassified report on foreign threats to 2020 US elections Tuesday, which concludes that foreign adversaries - including Russia - did attempt to interfere.
Russia's efforts were aimed at "denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US," it says.
"Unlike in 2016, we did not see persistent Russian cyber efforts to gain access to election infrastructure," the report notes.
The report also stated that there are "no indications that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 US elections, including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results."
That conclusion echoes what the Department of Homeland Security's cyber arm said the day after the 2020 presidential election.
"Over the last four years, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been a part of a whole-of-nation effort to ensure American voters decide American elections. Importantly, after millions of Americans voted, we have no evidence any foreign adversary was capable of preventing Americans from voting or changing vote tallies," CISA said at the time.
The report also describes efforts by Iran and China to interfere in the elections.
"We assess that Iran carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump's reelection prospects-though without directly promoting his rivals-undermine public confidence in the electoral process and US institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the US," it says.
"We assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the US Presidential election," it adds.
"Foreign malign influence is an enduring challenge facing our country," said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. "These efforts by U.S. adversaries seek to exacerbate divisions and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions. Addressing this ongoing challenge requires a whole-of-government approach grounded in an accurate understanding of the problem, which the Intelligence Community, through assessments such as this one, endeavors to provide."
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