William Evanina. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

William Evanina, the nation's top counterintelligence official, said Friday that China, Russia and Iran present the most pressing threats for election interference in the 2020 presidential race.

Why it matters: November's election is set to see unprecedented use of vote-by-mail options amid the coronavirus pandemic, which could delay results and see baseless pushback from President Trump — potentially allowing foreign actors to sow discord.

The assessments:

  • "China is expanding its influence efforts to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and counter criticism of China. Beijing recognizes its efforts might affect the presidential race."
  • "Russia's persistent objective is to weaken the United States and diminish our global role. Using a range of efforts, including internet trolls and other proxies, Russia continues to spread disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process and denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment' in America."
  • "Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and divide the country in advance of the elections. Iran’s efforts center around online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content."

The state of play: Evanina also warned that American "adversaries also seek to compromise our election infrastructure, and we continue to monitor malicious cyber actors trying to gain access to U.S. state and federal networks, including those responsible for managing elections."

The backdrop: The Trump administration ordered China to close its consulate in Houston this week "in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information," triggering a tit-for-tat response with the forced closure of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Oct 23, 2020 - World

Special report: Trump's hopes of nuclear deal with Putin come down to the wire

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A surprise offer from Vladimir Putin has the U.S. and Russia once again circling a potential pre-election nuclear deal.

The big picture: The last treaty constraining the U.S. and Russia, New START, is due to expire on Feb. 5, 2021, two weeks after the next U.S. presidential inauguration. For the first time since the height of the Cold War, the nuclear guardrails could come off.

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus — COVID-19 looms over White House Halloween celebrations
  2. Health: Fauci says maybe we should mandate masks if people don't wear them — America was sick well before it ever got COVID-19
  3. World: Polish President Andrzej Duda tests positive for COVID-19.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus

Marc Short with Katie Miller, Vice President Pence's communications director, in March. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Reuters

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force.