US: Russia Anti-Biden, China Anti-Trump08/08 09:58
U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia is using a variety of
measures to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead of the
November election and that individuals linked to the Kremlin are boosting
President Donald Trump's reelection bid, the country's counterintelligence
chief said in the most specific warning to date about the threat of foreign
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia is using
a variety of measures to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden
ahead of the November election and that individuals linked to the Kremlin are
boosting President Donald Trump's reelection bid, the country's
counterintelligence chief said in the most specific warning to date about the
threat of foreign interference.
U.S. officials also believe China does not want Trump to win a second term
and has accelerated its criticism of the White House, expanding its efforts to
shape public policy in America and to pressure political figures seen as
opposed to Beijing's interests.
The statement Friday from William Evanina is believed to be the most pointed
declaration by the U.S. intelligence community linking the Kremlin to efforts
to get Trump reelected --- a sensitive subject for a president who has rejected
intelligence agency assessments that Russia tried to help him in 2016. It also
connects Moscow's disapproval of Biden to his role as vice president in shaping
Obama administration policies supporting Ukraine, an important U.S. ally, and
opposing Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Asked about the intelligence assessment Friday evening in Bedminster, New
Jersey, Trump appeared to dispute the idea that Russia was disparaging Biden.
"I think the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because
nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have --- ever," he said.
But the president seemed to agree with the intelligence indicating China
didn't want him reelected. "If Joe Biden was president, China would own our
country," he said.
Evanina's statement, three months before the election, comes amid criticism
from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats that the
intelligence community has been withholding from the public specific
intelligence information about the threat of foreign interference in American
"The facts are chilling," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., wrote in an
op-ed published Friday evening in The Washington Post. "I believe the American
public needs and deserves to know them. The information should be declassified
The latest intelligence assessment reflects concerns not only about Russia
but China and Iran as well, warning that hostile foreign actors may seek to
compromise election infrastructure, interfere with the voting process or call
into question voting results. Despite those efforts, officials see it as
unlikely that anyone could manipulate voting results in any sweeping way,
"Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they
express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence
efforts are rarer," said Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence
and Security Center. "We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and
potential activity by China, Russia and Iran."
Concerns about election interference are especially acute following a
wide-ranging effort by Russia to meddle in the 2016 election on Trump's behalf
through both the hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media
campaign aimed at sowing discord among U.S. voters. Trump has routinely
resisted the idea that the Kremlin favored him in 2016, but the intelligence
assessment released Friday indicates that unnamed Kremlin-linked actors are
again working to boost his candidacy on social media and Russian television.
The White House reacted to Friday's news with a statement saying "the United
States will not tolerate foreign interference in our electoral processes and
will respond to malicious foreign threats that target our democratic
Tony Blinken, a senior adviser to Biden's campaign, responded that Trump
"has publicly and repeatedly invited, emboldened, and even tried to coerce
foreign interference in American elections. ... Joe Biden, on the other hand,
has led the fight against foreign interference for years."
Democrats in Congress who have participated in recent classified briefings
on election interference have expressed alarm at what they have heard. They
have urged the U.S. intelligence community to make public some of their
concerns in part to avoid a repeat of 2016, when Obama administration officials
were seen as slow and overly deliberate in their public discussion of active
Russian measures in that year's election.
Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, both California
Democrats, said Friday that they were "pleased that Mr. Evanina heeded our call
to make additional details public about Russia's malign interference campaign."
But they also criticized him for naming Iran and China "as equal threats to our
When it comes to Russia, U.S. officials assess that it is working to
"denigrate" Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia "establishment" among his
supporters, Evanina said. U.S. officials believe that tracks Moscow's criticism
of Biden when he was vice president for his role in Ukraine policies and his
support of opposition to Putin inside Russia.
The U.S. statement called out by name Andrii Derkach, a pro-Russia Ukrainian
lawmaker who has been active in leveling unsubstantiated corruption allegations
against Biden and his son Hunter, who used to sit on the board of Burisma, an
Ukrainian natural gas company. That effort has included publicizing leaked
Democrats, including members of the Senate intelligence panel, have voiced
concerns that an ongoing Republican probe into Hunter Biden and his work in
Ukraine would parallel Russian efforts and amplify Russian disinformation. That
investigation is being led by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. He has denied any
Though U.S. officials allege that China has its own preference, Friday's
statement did not directly accuse Beijing of election interference or taking
action to prop up Biden.
Instead, the statement said, China views Trump as "unpredictable" and does
not want to see him win reelection. China has been expanding its influence
efforts ahead of the November election in an effort to shape U.S. policy and
pressure political figures it sees as against Beijing.
The Trump administration's relationship with Beijing has taken a starkly
more adversarial tone in recent weeks, including the closure of China's
consulate in Houston and an executive order Thursday that banned dealings with
the Chinese owners of consumer apps TikTok and WeChat,
"Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive
action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly
critical of the current Administration's COVID-19 response, closure of China's
Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues," the statement said.
The top foreign policy adviser of China's ruling Communist Party, Yang
Jiechi, said Friday that "China has no interest in meddling in
U.S. domestic politics."
On Iran, the assessment said Tehran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic
institutions as well as Trump and divide America before the election.
"Iran's efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence,
such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S.
content," Evanina wrote. "Tehran's motivation to conduct such activities is, in
part, driven by a perception that President Trump's re-election would result in
a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change."
During a panel discussion later Friday at the DEF CON hacker convention,
federal cybersecurity officials were asked which foreign threat they considered
"I don't think I would say one is scarier than the other, per se. Certainly
some of these adversaries are at little bit more experienced," said the
National Security Agency's election lead, David Imbordino.
"I couldn't agree more," said Cynthia Kaiser, the FBI's deputy chief of
analysis for national cyber threats. "If if you ask me what the biggest threat
is, it's the kind of constant drumbeat or influence campaigns that are going to
make people feel like they are less confident in our (elections) system."