Russia's Putin likely directed 2020 election meddling, U.S. finds

Katie Ramirez
March 17, 2021

Mueller found extensive contacts between Trump's campaign and Russian Federation. U.S. officials say they determined that Beijing valued a stable relationship with the United States and did not consider either election outcome as advantageous enough for it to risk getting caught with interference.

The Russians were responsible for '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 USA,' the report said, according to CNN.

The report found with less controversy that Russian Federation and Iran took opposite sides in their efforts to influence the election.

"The NIO agrees with the IC's view that Beijing was primarily focused on countering anti-China policies, but assesses that some of Beijing's influence efforts were meant to at least indirectly affect US candidates, political processes, and voter preferences", the assessment added.

Iranian personnel ramped up the generation of thousands of fake social media accounts, sent phishing emails to USA officials and political campaign members and sought to exploit vulnerabilities on the election websites of U.S. states.

"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.

Iran, meanwhile, "carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign" to undermine Trump's candidacy "without directly promoting his rivals".

The unclassified report is the most comprehensive look the intelligence community has released to the public regarding foreign efforts to meddle in the 2020 election.

Two sources told Reuters the sanctions could address the cyber hack blamed on Russian Federation that used United States company SolarWinds Corp to penetrate USA government networks as well as reports Russian Federation offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan.

FILE — Voters cast ballots on the last day of early voting at a polling location Las Vegas Oct. 30 2020
FILE — Voters cast ballots on the last day of early voting at a polling location Las Vegas Oct. 30 2020

"We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 U.S. elections, including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results", an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Council's 15-page report states.

A separate document released Tuesday from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security reached a similar conclusion about the integrity of the election, saying there was no evidence any foreign actor had changed votes.

The report examines claims of which foreign adversaries supported which candidates during the 2020 presidential election.

Evanina also said that "China prefers that President Trump - whom Beijing sees as unpredictable - does not win reelection".

Central to that effort was reliance on proxies linked to Russian intelligence "to launder influence narratives" by using media organizations, USA officials and people close to Trump to push "misleading or unsubstantiated" allegations against Biden. While Russia favored Trump, the report said, Russian actors "criticized" him when he took certain foreign policy actions, including the 2020 killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which were "at odds with Russia's preferences".

The report did not name those people but seemed to be a reference to the work of Trump's former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who relentlessly pushed allegations of corruption about Biden and his family involving Ukraine. Mr. Kilimnik has denied ties with Moscow's security services.

"These efforts by US adversaries seek to exacerbate divisions and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions", Haines wrote in a statement. It also found that China and Iran wanted Mr Trump to lose the vote.

"Beijing probably judged that Russia's effort to interfere in the 2016 election significantly damaged Moscow's position and relationship with the United States and may have anxious that Washington would uncover a Chinese attempt to deploy similar measures", it said.

China considered efforts to influence the presidential vote, but ultimately concluded that any such operation would fail and likely backfire, intelligence officials concluded. The absence of a concerted effort by Russian Federation to change votes suggests that Moscow had refocused its intelligence service on a broader effort to hack the USA government.

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"If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step", the statement read.

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