Russia wants Trump to win 2020 polls but China and Iran want Biden as POTUS, intelligence report reveals
The report said that while Moscow is trying to 'denigrate' Joe Biden, Iran is also targeting America's democratic institutions and the president
The presidential election is less than three months away and new warnings about unfriendly foreign powers trying to influence it have emerged, rekindling the uneasy memories of the 2016 poll. The US intelligence community has assessed that while Russia is actively trying to "denigrate" presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and promote incumbent president Donald Trump, China is seeking to see the end of the Republican’s stay in office. Even Iran, another country which has strained relations with the Trump administration, might be trying to "undermine" America’s democratic institutions and the president mainly through online campaigns.
National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said in a statement issued on August 7: "Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer. We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia, and Iran."
'China increasingly critical of current administration'
Evanina, who has been in office since 2014, is one of the country's top counterintelligence officers and was tapped to take a lead in intelligence-based election security threat briefings in May. "China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China's interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China," his statement said, adding, "Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current administration’s Covid-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues."
Russia trying ways to denigrate Joe Biden?
On Russia’s targeting Biden, the statement said: "We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment'. This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia." On Russia’s alleged backing for Trump, the statement said, "Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television."
Trump, however, dismissed the intelligence report on Russia. When he was asked on August 7 by a reporter in New Jersey about the assessment that Moscow wants to see him win the November election but Beijing wants him to lose, the maverick commander-in-chief responded by saying, "The last person that Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump." He dismissed the intelligence report saying, "I don’t care what anybody says" when the reporter pointed out the latest assessment.
In April, Trump claimed that China would do anything to see him losing his re-election bid. He said it while blaming the Asian power for his country’s coronavirus woes. The same month, his campaign also targeted Biden as one who has a soft corner for the Chinese.
Iran targeting US institutions, Trump through online campaign
On the third country, Iran, Evanina said it was targeting the US’s democratic institutions, Trump and aiming to divide the country in the run-up to the 2020 polls. It said Tehran’s efforts “probably will focus on on-line influence”.
"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 US pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change,” the statement said. Iran’s relation with the US plummeted in the times of Trump after he pulled Washington out of the multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran and the American troops killed a top Iranian military leader in Baghdad in January this year.
The alarming update on August 7 came after Democratic lawmakers put pressure on the intelligence community to share detailed information about the threats to the November election, CBS News reported. The update, according to the statement, represents “the most current, accurate, and objective election threat information the IC has to offer in an unclassified setting at this time”.
However, CBS News cited an official who cautioned that the update had an underlying lack of clarity about what each of those countries was doing vis-a-vis the US election and why. The official, who has been briefed on the intelligence, was quoted as saying: “Only one of the three is actively seeking to interfere to the benefit of one candidate and at the expense of another, and that’s Russia. That doesn’t mean China doesn’t have a preference – but having a preference and doing something about it are not one and the same.”
Evanina also came up with similar warnings in late July 24, around 100 days before the election, and Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman Marco Rubio and Vice Chairman Mark Warner praised the former over his latest update, thanking him for providing the “additional information” to the people of America and said they would look forward to get more updates as the Election Day approaches.