Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) greets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) during his meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palace on March 28, 2017 in Moscow, Russia.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images
Russia and Iran were conducting operations to try to meddle in the 2020 presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, according to a U.S. intelligence report released Tuesday.
U.S. intelligence also noted that China made no attempt to change the 2020 race outcome, and there is no evidence that foreign actors tried to change the U.S. ballot or voting tables, the report said .
The assessment was released as the Biden administration works to strengthen ties with key US allies to put pressure on Russia and Iran.
“On his first phone call with President Putin, President Biden knew the United States would respond to a series of destabilizing Russian actions,” a White House official said in a statement to NBC News late Tuesday.
These actions include the SolarWinds hack, for which, according to US authorities, Russia is likely to be responsible, as well as the alleged poisoning of the well-known Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.
“You have already seen that we have taken a number of measures to respond to the use of a chemical weapon by Russia in the attempted murder of Alexey Navalny,” the official said. “There will be more soon.”
Tehran and Moscow have previously denied any involvement in an attempt to influence the US elections.
The report said, however, that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “approved influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, and undermining public confidence in the electoral process.” to exacerbate the socio-political divisions in the USA “.
One of Moscow’s key strategies, according to the report, was to use proxies affiliated with Russian intelligence agencies to spread misleading claims and narratives among certain US media and individuals – “including some close to former President Trump and his administration”.
These plans have been put into action by “a number of Russian government organizations,” according to the report.
Iran “meanwhile,” carried out a complex covert campaign of influence to undermine former President Trump’s prospects for re-election – without directly promoting his rivals – in order to undermine public confidence in the electoral process and US institutions, and to sow division and to exacerbate social tensions in the US, “the report said.
Intelligence experts also noted that China, previously believed to be expanding its US influence efforts, ultimately failed to use any operations to influence the outcome of the Trump-Biden election.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
Fred Dufour | AFP | Getty Images
“China sought stability in its relations with the United States and did not see either election result as favorable enough for China to risk meddling,” the report said.
Beijing “assessed its traditional instruments of influence – especially targeted economic measures and lobbying – as sufficient to achieve its goal of shaping politics between the US and China independently of the winner.”
However, an expert – the National Cyber Intelligence Officer – noted that China “has taken some steps to undermine the re-election of former President Trump”.
These assessments, each made with “high confidence”, were published in a declassified report released by the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence Service. The investigation was conducted by the Department of Justice and Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
The report also found that, unlike the previous presidential cycle, there was no evidence of foreign actors attempting to change voter registration, ballot papers, or voting in the 2020 US election.
“We estimate that it would be difficult for a foreign actor to manipulate electoral processes on a large scale without doing so by gathering information about the actors themselves, by monitoring the physical and cybersecurity of electoral systems across the country or by Audits after the elections will be determined, “wrote the authors of the intelligence report.
In a statement, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Stressed that the report shows that Russia remains the greatest threat to the US elections.
While China and Iran have also “taken specific steps related to US elections,” Schiff said, they are “on a far less significant or systematic level than those taken by Russia.”
“We have to be clear and straightforward to the American people that different countries have different intentions and capabilities and do not threaten our free and fair elections equally,” said Schiff.
Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, D-Va., Said while the U.S. has stepped up its defenses against foreign interference, “The problem of foreign actors trying to influence American voters is not going away and, given the current partisan differences in this country, it could find fertile ground on which to grow in the future.”
In addition to Iran and Russia, the investigation found that Cuba, Venezuela and Lebanese Hezbollah also worked to influence the elections, albeit on a smaller scale.
The unclassified rating released on Tuesday builds on the analysis the intelligence services provided to policy makers throughout the 2020 election cycle.