Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the dust settles on the 2020 presidential election, it's becoming clear that the process proved sturdy, with no known attacks on voting infrastructure and no 2016-style vast foreign meddling campaigns to disrupt American democracy.

Yes, but: The ongoing disinformation campaign from President Trump and his allies, as they refuse to accept his loss, illustrates that the country does not need outside intrusions to undermine the integrity of our elections.

Where it stands: None of the election's worst-case scenarios came to pass.

  • There's zero evidence of any hacks into voting machines or alterations of voter data.
  • Despite the best efforts of Trump's legal team to cast doubt on the integrity of the election results before they're certified, there's no evidence whatsoever of widespread fraud that could affect the outcome of the presidential or down-ballot races.
  • There were some minor meddling efforts, but no foreign adversary even attempted to launch a large-scale interference campaign against the election.

The big picture: There's general agreement that the parties that needed to be prepared for the worst stepped up.

  • DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI and the U.S. military's Cyber Command undertook unprecedented, and often coordinated, actions to raise awareness about potential foreign cyber operations, shore up domestic online defenses and degrade and disrupt adversary networks abroad.
  • Major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter worked diligently to identify and take down foreign disinformation networks, including several linked to Iran and Russia.

Happily, they were overprepared. Those Iranian and Russian campaigns, all caught before they even had a chance to gain much steam, were generally slapdash operations of limited scale and efficacy.

  • Iran, for instance, hijacked a website associated with a far-right group and sent threatening pro-Trump emails posing as members of that group to Floridians and Alaskans listed on public voter rolls as Democrats.
  • Unlike in 2016, this year saw no verifiable, large-scale, pre-election operations in which a cutout like WikiLeaks or persona like Guccifer 2.0 surfaced and amplified hacked materials.

Between the lines: It's not that foreign actors lacked the opportunity to intervene in the 2020 elections.

  • Even if the Russians or Iranians failed to procure any explosive hacked material, they likely could have produced forged documents and set about distributing and amplifying them online.

The catch: Hostile foreign actors didn't need to expend that effort. The closest thing to a retread of 2016's hack-and-leak operation — though there is no evidence linking it to a foreign government — was the late-stage trickle of material purportedly stolen from Hunter Biden's laptop.

  • That didn't have to be seeded online and boosted by an army of trolls, fake accounts and bots. Instead, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani acted as the broker delivering that material to homegrown conservative media outlets.
  • The rising swell of disinformation circulating inside the U.S. political world is achieving the ultimate goal of hostile foreign intelligence services for them: the poisoning of the information ecosystem of millions of Americans, which foments domestic discord.

What's next: When there are actually core U.S.-related foreign policy objectives at stake for these countries, they can execute disinformation campaigns in an ever-more primed environment for them. In 2022 or 2024, they may be pushing on an open door.

Go deeper

Twitter troll charged with 2016 election interference

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department charged a pro-Trump former Twitter user with election interference for posts encouraging users to vote via text in the 2016 election.

Why it matters: The DOJ believes this is the first criminal case charging an American with suppressing the vote via disinformation on Twitter.

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.