The US intelligence community determined that Russia and Iran tried to meddle in the 2020 election while China did not

  • The US intelligence community found that Russia and Iran tried to interfere in the 2020 election.
  • China considered meddling but stood down because it didn’t think it would benefit from Trump or Biden.
  • The report threw cold water on a GOP conspiracy theory about foreign interference with voting.
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The US intelligence community determined with high confidence that Russia and Iran authorized covert influence operations aimed at altering the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election and sowing doubt in the electoral process.

It also found that the Chinese government considered meddling in the race but ultimately “did not deploy interference efforts” because it didn’t believe that it would benefit from either a Trump or Biden presidency.

“We assess that Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations 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,” said a declassified report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

However, “unlike in 2016, we did not see persistent Russian cyber efforts to gain access to election infrastructure,” the report continued. Instead, “a key element of Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives — including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden — to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration.”

The report did not specify which individuals in Trump’s orbit were targeted. But it noted that Putin “had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian legislator who played a prominent role in Russia’s election activities.”

Derkach has ties to Russian government officials and intelligence agencies, and he made headlines when Politico reported that he sent packets of material on Biden, who was then the Democratic presidential nominee, to Trump’s top congressional allies. Democratic lawmakers sounded the alarm and said the packets were part of a foreign disinformation effort to damage Biden’s campaign ahead of the November general election.

Derkach is also a known associate of former New York mayor and longtime Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The two men met in Kyiv in December 2019 to discuss investigating the Biden family, according to Politico.

The House of Representatives was in the middle of its impeachment inquiry into Trump at the time over his efforts to strongarm the Ukrainian government into launching politically motivated investigations targeting the Bidens. The US Treasury sanctioned Derkach last year for “attempting to influence the electoral process” and described him as an “active Russian agent.”

Iran, meanwhile, 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,” the document said.

The effort was authorized by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and implemented by Iran’s military and intelligence services, who used both “overt and covert messaging and cyber operations.”

China, however, appears to have sat out on the sidelines. The report said the country primarily “sought stability in its relationship with the United States” and “did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling.” The Chinese government believed that “targeted economic measures and lobbying” would help shape US-China policy “regardless of the winner.”

The declassified report also threw cold water on a conspiracy theory that former President Donald Trump and other administration officials floated, alleging that foreign countries could manipulate the results of the 2020 election by interfering with the voting process.

“We have 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,” the report said.

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