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Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday released a declassified report on foreign actors' attempts to influence and interfere in the 2020 election.

The big picture: The U.S. intelligence community found that Russia and Iran conducted influence operations aimed at affecting the outcome of the election, but that China did not. The report found no indications that foreign actors attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process.

Russia: U.S. intelligence agencies assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the election and sowing divisions.

  • Unlike in 2016, U.S. intelligence did not observe persistent Russian efforts to gain access to election infrastructure.
  • A key element of the Kremlin's strategy was directing Russian proxies, including sanctioned Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, to "use prominent U.S. persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to U.S. officials and audiences" — including some individuals close to Trump.
  • The report assesses that Putin "had purview over" Derkach's activities, which included meeting with Rudy Giuliani to discuss Biden's and his son Hunter's dealings in Ukraine. Derkach and other Russian proxies provided materials to "Trump administration-linked individuals" to advocate for formal investigations into the Bidens.

China: The report assesses that Beijing "did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts" intended to change the outcome of the election.

  • "China sought stability in its relationship with the United States, did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling, and assessed its traditional influence tools — primarily targeted economic measures and lobbying — would be sufficient to meet its goal of shaping U.S.-China policy regardless of the winner."
  • "We assess that Beijing also believes there is a bipartisan consensus against China in the United States that leaves no prospect for a pro-China administration regardless of the election outcome," the report adds.
  • The assessment contradicts pre-election statements from the Trump administration, which frequently sought to paint China as the greater threat to U.S. elections. In a "minority view" included in the report, the National Intelligence Office for Cyber assessed that China took "at least some steps" aimed at undermining Trump through social media and official statements.

Iran: The report assessed that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei authorized a "multi-pronged covert influence campaign" aimed at damaging Trump's election prospects and undermining confidence in the election.

Other actors: Lebanese Hezbollah, Cuba, Venezuela and some profit-motivated cyber criminals were also involved in smaller-scale attempts to influence the election, according to the assessment.

Read the full report.

Go deeper

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

5 hours ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.