Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf testifies to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on August 6. Photo: Alex Wong/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security's intelligence branch warned law enforcement Thursday that it believes Russian-controlled social media trolls and state media are likely to continue trying to sow distrust in U.S. election results and mail-in ballots, ABC News first reported.

Why it matters: Americans are expected to vote by mail in record numbers in November's election due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means it may be days or weeks after election day before it's clear who won the presidency and down-ballot races.

The big picture: President Trump has raised alarms about the alleged danger of election fraud, warning that "lots of things can happen" with voting by mail if the presidential race isn't decided on election night.

  • Trump has vowed to block funding for mail-in voting and the U.S. Postal Service, while baselessly claiming that more mailed ballots will cause widespread voter fraud.
  • States that allow mail-in voting generally have a wide variety of security measures in place, including requirements that people request ballots with personal information like driver's license numbers.

What they're saying: "We assess that Russia is likely to continue amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail and shifting voting processes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public trust in the electoral process," the intelligence bulletin said.

  • The agency based its report on Russian state media and proxy websites criticizing mail-in voting since March this year, and Senate-sponsored social media analysis.
  • "We continue to release intelligence on foreign influence activities — we never stopped — including those targeting U.S. elections and democratic processes," an agency spokesperson said an emailed statement.

Flashback: The DHS withheld a separate intelligence briefing to law enforcement, reviewed in July, that warned of a Russian campaign to promote allegations about Democratic nominee Joe Biden's "poor mental health," per ABC News.

The White House declined to comment.

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Why it matters: Democrats are exponentially more likely to vote by mail than Republicans this year — and if enough mail-in ballots are lost, rejected on a technicality or undercounted, it could change the outcome of the presidential election or other key races.

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Why it matters: Meadows' statement highlights the Trump administration's strategy to sow doubt in November's election results by challenging the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, which are expected to skew heavily in Democrats' favor.

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Pennsylvania's "naked ballots" are 2020's hanging chads

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Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.