US government says no evidence a foreign power manipulated 2020 election results
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Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah all made attempts to harm President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, according to a declassified intelligence assessment, while Russia sought to harm then-candidate Joe Biden, and China held back.
Federal investigators found no evidence that foreign powers "manipulated any election results" in the 2020 presidential race, the Biden administration announced Tuesday – but foreign powers did try to influence public opinion for their favored candidates.
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified intelligence assessment of foreign threats to the 2020 elections pursuant to the Intelligence Authorization Act.
A joint investigation involving the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, found Russia and Iran sought to attack then-candidate Biden and former President Trump, respectively, and China prepared an influence plan that it did not act upon.
The Biden administration is reportedly considering sanctions on Russia, China and Iran as a result of the findings of the new report.
FILE - In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, left, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020. Barring unforeseen disaster, Biden will represent the Democratic Party against Trump this fall, the former vice president's place on the general election ballot cemented Wednesday, April 8, by Bernie Sanders' decision to end his campaign. (AP Photo) (AP)
Vote totals themselves were not affected – even though investigators uncovered intrusions into state and local networks -- according to the assessment.
"The Departments investigated multiple public claims that one or more foreign governments owned, directed or controlled election infrastructure used in the 2020 federal elections; implemented a scheme to manipulate election infrastructure; or tallied, changed or otherwise manipulated vote counts," the DOJ and DHS said in a joint statement. "The Departments found that those claims were not credible."
The declassified DNI report also concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized "influence operations" attacking then-candidate Biden and other Democrats as well as stoking partisan division in the U.S. Those measures included amplifying allegations of corruption linked to Biden, his family and Ukraine.
At the same time, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likely authorized an operation targeting President Trump, secretly trying "to undercut" his reelection campaign and, like Russia, also trying to fuel partisan tensions. Additionally, Iran impersonated members of the Proud Boys to send threatening emails to voters in multiple states, according to the assessment.
China had considered its own efforts but ultimately held back, according to the report, possibly because officials there did not believe either candidate would be more pro-Beijing.
And three lesser threats – Hezbollah, Cuba and Venezuela – made small-scale attacks.
"This report highlights the ongoing and persistent efforts by our adversaries to influence our elections, which all Americans should be informed about," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a statement. "Russia, in particular, has expended real effort, not just in 2020, but also as we all recall in 2016, to influence election results."
Warner said that he believes U.S. intelligence officials have improved their abilities to detect and counter such efforts, however.
"But the problem of foreign actors trying to influence the American electorate is not going away and, given the current partisan divides in this country, may find fertile ground in which to grow in the future," he added.