Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to assist Donald Trump in the presidential election last November, according to a declassified intelligence assessment that found extensive efforts by the Kremlin and Iran to influence the outcome of the election, but no evidence that any foreign actor changed the votes or disrupted the vote. otherwise the voting process.
The report released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence constitutes the most detailed assessment of the set of foreign threats to the 2020 elections. These included Iran’s efforts to weaken confidence in the vote and hurting Trump’s re-election prospects, as well as Moscow operations that used Trump allies to discredit Joe Biden, the subsequent winner.
However, despite these threats, intelligence officials they found “no clue of a foreign actor attempting to interfere in the 2020 US elections by altering any technical aspect of the voting process, such as voter registration, vote casting, vote tabulation or results reporting. “
The report is the latest official confirmation of the integrity of the elections, even as Trump supporters continue to make false accusations of interference from foreign or domestic actors and refuse to accept Biden’s victory. Multiple courts and even Trump’s own Justice Department have refuted the widespread fraud allegations. The document makes clear that, although Trump has objected to the legitimacy of the elections, intelligence services believe that Russia tried to influence people close to Trump as a way to tilt the elections in his favor.
The report, rejected by Russia considering it “not corroborated”, embarks on the politically charged task of figuring out which foreign adversaries supported which candidates during the 2020 elections, a topic that dominated the headlines last year. Trump, whose 2016 campaign benefited from hacking by Russian intelligence agents and an undercover effort on social media, took advantage of an August intelligence assessment that said China preferred a Biden presidency, though the same assessment also It said Russia was working to boost Trump’s candidacy by discrediting Biden.
Tuesday’s report, however, says that China finally did not interfere on neither side and “considered but did not deploy” influencing operations designed to affect the outcome. US officials say they believe that Beijing prioritized a stable relationship with the United States and did not see the outcome of the two elections as advantageous enough to risk the “backlash” that would ensue if the interference were discovered.
Instead, the main threats came from Russia and Iran, albeit with different intentions and means, according to intelligence officials.
According to the report, Russia tried to undermine Biden’s candidacy because he believed that his presidency was opposed to the interests of the Kremlin, although he did take some steps to prepare for a Democratic government as the elections approached.
The report also says Putin authorized influence operations aimed at denigrating Biden, boosting Trump, weakening confidence in the elections and exacerbating social divisions in the United States.
Biden, in an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” said there would be repercussions for Putin for a variety of misdeeds and clarified: “The price you are going to pay, you will see shortly“The president said that in his first call, held last month, he began by telling Putin that” we understand each other. “And when asked in the interview if he believed Putin is a murderer, Biden said:” I do. “
A central aspect of Moscow’s interference effort was using delegates linked to Russian intelligence “to whitewash accounts of their influence,” using media organizations, US officials and people close to Trump to push forward accusations. “misleading or without foundation” against Biden.
Intelligence officials did not point to any Trump ally in that effort. But Rudy Giuliani, close to him for a long time, met several times with Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who in 2020 released heavily edited recordings of Biden in an effort to link the Democratic candidate to unsubstantiated corruption allegations. US officials have said they consider Derkach an “active Russian agent”, and Tuesday’s report said Putin is believed to have “competition” in his activities.
However, it should be noted that Russia was not as aggressive as in previous election cycles in its attempt to hack into the electoral infrastructure. The report says that Russian cyber operations that targeted state and municipal government networks last year were likely not election-focused but part of a broader effort to target U.S. and global entities.
The Kremlin on Wednesday rejected the report’s allegations.
“We disagre with the conclusions of this report on our country, “Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with journalists.” Russia did not interfere in the previous elections and did not interfere in the 2020 elections mentioned in the report. “
He said Russia “has nothing to do with the campaigns against any of the candidates,” and called the report from “unfounded and unsubstantiated”. He regretted that “these materials, far from being of high quality”, could be used as a pretext for new sanctions against Russia.
Iran, for its part, carried out its own lobbying campaign aimed at hurt Trump’s candidacy for reelection, an effort that US officials say was likely approved by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A “highly targeted operation” – which was the subject of an October press conference between then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray – consisted of a flurry of emails addressed to Democratic voters in contested states who pretended to come from of the far-right group Proud Boys and in which recipients were threatened if they did not vote for Trump.
Iran’s efforts, which, according to authorities, they were more aggressive that in past elections and continued even after the race, they focused on sowing discord in the United States, probably because Tehran believed that it would hurt Trump’s reelection chances.
Although Iran tried to exploit vulnerabilities in state election websites and “compromised US entities related to electoral infrastructure as part of a broad effort across multiple sectors around the world,” did not attempt to manipulate the voting nor affect the electoral infrastructure, the report concluded.
The fifteen page document is the declassified version of a report on election interference that was provided to Trump on January 7, the day after the disturbances on Capitol Hill during the session of Congress to certify the results of the election.
A separate document released Tuesday by the Justice and Homeland Security departments reached a similar conclusion about the integrity of the elections, saying there was no evidence that any foreign actor had modified the votes.
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