Donald Trump administration delays intel report on China's role in influencing 2020 election, says report
The report was set to be released by December 18 but it is now unclear when it will see the light of day
The outgoing Donald Trump administration is set to dishonor the deadline to publish a report on foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election. The intelligence community had reported in the run-up to the poll that foreign powers like Russia, China and Iran were looking to influence the election, either in favor of Trump or his challenger Joe Biden who emerged as the eventual winner.
In an exclusive report published on Wednesday, December 16, Fox News said the 2020 Intelligence Community Assessment which focused on foreign election influence will be delayed even as a dispute continues among senior intelligence analysts over whether China sought to meddle in the poll. “This afternoon the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) was notified by career intelligence officials that the Intelligence Community (IC) will not meet the December 18 deadline, set by Executive Order and Congress, to submit the IC’s classified assessment on foreign threats to the 2020 U.S. elections,” Fox cited Amanda Schoch, Assistant DNI for Strategic Communications, saying in a statement.
“The IC has received relevant reporting since the election and a number of agencies have not finished coordinating on the product,” Schoch added. “The DNI is committed to providing this report to our customers expeditiously.”
Lack of consensus on China's role
While the report was expected to be released by Friday, December 18, informed sources told Fox that there is a lack of consensus in the intelligence community over the content of the 2020 assessment. They also told the network that a number of senior intelligence analysts were “adamant” that Beijing tried to influence the 2020 poll while there were others who downplayed its activities around the high-stakes election.
The report also cited some of the analysts claiming that China’s efforts were “minimal” or included only plans that were not executed. But others said there is “ample raw intelligence” about Beijing’s plans and actions. It was Bloomberg which first reported about the dispute. When asked about the stand of DNI John Ratcliffe on the matter, a senior intelligence source told Fox that “all that Ratcliffe wants is for the intelligence to be reflected accurately and honestly with regard to China and everything else”. Another intelligence official told Fox that “proper analytic tradecraft would stipulate that when there are competing views like this, that both views should be captured in the report”.
Former acting DNI Richard Grenell tweeted on Wednesday, December 16, that Ratcliffe is “standing up for career analysts who want their views to be accurately reflected. In other words, fighting to keep intelligence from being politicized”.
Two months ago, Ratcliffe, who took over in May, and FBI chief Christopher Wray warned about Moscow and Tehran attempting to influence the November 3 presidential election. He said the intelligence community discovered that Tehran was trying to incite social unrest and see Trump defeated. “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries," Ratcliffe said at the time, noting that intimidating emails were sent to Democrats in several battleground states that appeared to be intimidating them into voting for Trump. The emails were falsely projected to have originated from the far-right Proud Boys and warned that “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote to reelect Trump.
NEW: Google says 25,000 emails were sent to Gmail users in a suspected Iranian campaign targeting the 2020 election.— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) October 22, 2020
Google's spam systems stopped 90% of the messages, the company said.
Meaning some 2,500 American Gmail users may have received the messages.
Ratcliffe then said the mails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. But one would understand that it was a psychological tactic of putting pressure on the Democrats to make them believe that Trump’s allies were sending them those emails and encouraging them to actually vote against the incumbent. "We're not surprised Iran is behind the threatening emails," Cybersecurity research firm Check Point Research told Fox News in a statement in October. "Intimidation is the name of their game. We've studied them closely over the years, and we know they've built a very sophisticated arsenal of cyber-espionage capabilities. We urge voters to closely monitor their inbox as election day fast approaches,” it had added.
While China did not feature in that briefing, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina has warned since summer that China, Russia and Iran were looking to influence the election. While it was said that China and Iran were trying to see Trump lose, Russia was eyeing for Biden's defeat.