Washington, DC-July 24, 2020, I issued a statement to the American public providing an unclassified overview of foreign threats in the 2020 election and providing some basic steps to mitigate these threats. At that time, I pledged that the American Intelligence Community (IC) would continue to introduce the changing electoral threat landscape to the American public and other key stakeholders, while also protecting our intelligence sources and methods.
Today, we fulfilled this promise by sharing with the public more information about our opponents’ intentions and activities in the 2020 election. The purpose of publishing this information is to better inform Americans so that they can play a key role in defending our election. The following are the latest public updates:
Before the 2020 U.S. election, foreign countries will continue to use secret and public influence measures in an attempt to influence the preferences and views of American voters, change American policies, increase discord with the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democracy. They may also damage our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data or questioning the validity of election results. However, it is difficult for our opponents to intervene or manipulate voting results on a large scale.
Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, and they express it through a series of public and private speeches. Hidden influence is rare. We mainly focus on ongoing and potential activities in China, Russia and Iran.
China-our assessment that China considers President Trump-which Beijing considers unpredictable-will not win re-election. Until November 2020, China has been expanding its influence to shape the U.S. policy environment, exert pressure on politicians that it believes is not good for China’s interests, and divert and counter criticisms of China. Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggression, in the past few months, China’s public statements have increasingly criticized the current government’s response to COVID-1
Russia-We estimate that Russia is taking a series of measures to destroy former Vice President Biden and what it calls anti-Russian “institutions.” This is related to Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was vice president because of his role in the Obama administration’s policy towards Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition within Russia. For example, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Congressman Andriy Derkach spreads claims about corruption, including publicity through leaked phone calls, to undermine the candidacy of former Vice President Biden and the Democratic Party. Some actors associated with the Kremlin are also seeking to improve President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.
Iran-We assess Iran’s attempts to undermine President Trump, the democratic institution of the United States, and divide the country before the 2020 election. Iran’s efforts in these areas may focus on online influence, such as the spread of false information on social media and the spread of anti-American content. Tehran’s motivation for such activities is partly due to the belief that President Trump’s re-election will cause the United States to continue to exert pressure on Iran to promote regime change.
The above intelligence assessment represents the latest, accurate and objective election threat information that IC must provide in an unclassified environment. Providing objective intelligence analysis is the solemn duty of intelligence center personnel. They often work day and night around the world, usually taking huge personal risks to defend our country.
IC also realizes that as the election approaches, more information will continue to be needed. IC has and will continue to provide classified election threat briefings to the presidential campaign, the political committee and all members of Congress. Since mid-May 2020, we have provided these stakeholders with nearly 20 classified election threat briefings. We will also continue to provide updated information to the American public in accordance with our national security obligations. The steps we have taken so far to inform the public and other stakeholders of the election threat are unprecedented for the International Court of Justice.
In addition to sharing information, let me assure you that IC will do everything in its power to crack down on network and influence efforts against our election process and continue to support the key role of DHS and FBI in maintaining the election. As I emphasized in my public statement on July 24, 2020, we are together as Americans. Our election should be our own. Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections directly threaten the structure of our democracy. For more information about election participation, understanding foreign influence and false information, and the way the U.S. government is working to ensure the 2020 election, we encourage Americans to visit the following websites:
Department of Homeland Security election security: https://www.dhs.gov/topic/election-security
FBI protected voices: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/foreign-influence/protected-voices
National Association of State Secretaries#TrustedInfo2020: https://www.nass.org/initiatives/trustedinfo-2020