Aug 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Counterintelligence chief: Russia aiming to “denigrate” Biden ahead of election

William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, before Congress in 2018.
William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, before Congress in 2018. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate former Vice President Biden" before the November election.

Why it matters: Evanina warned that some Kremlin-linked actors are trying to support President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television, while others are spreading false claims about corruption to undermine Biden and the Democratic Party.

The big picture: The counterintelligence chief in July warned that China, Russia and Iran all pose threats for election interference in the 2020 presidential race.

  • He noted on Friday that "[m]any foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements."

China: Evanina said that per the counterintelligence community's assessment, the Chinese government would prefer Trump lose his reelection bid because it views him as "unpredictable."

  • China has pressured political figures that it deems in opposition to its national interests and has criticized the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and actions on Hong Kong, TikTok and the South China Sea.
  • "Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race," Evanina said.

Iran: Meanwhile, the counterintelligence community believes that the Iranian government is seeking to "undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections."

  • Iran is likely to spread disinformation on social media and recirculate anti-U.S. content, he said.
  • "Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change."

What they're saying:

  • "The intelligence assessments above represent the most current, accurate, and objective election threat information the IC has to offer in an unclassified setting at this time."
  • "Providing objective intelligence analysis is the solemn duty of the men and women of the IC, who work day and night around the world, often at great personal risk, to safeguard our nation."

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