Intel report finds Russia, Iran tried to influence 2020 election

The report also found that China did not seek to interfere with the vote.

March 16, 2021, 6:24 PM

The chief U.S. intelligence office has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw sweeping efforts aimed at "denigrating" President Joe Biden’s candidacy ahead of the 2020 election, according to a declassified report on foreign meddling released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report also noted that Iran similarly sought to "undercut" then-President Donald Trump’s reelection bid and that China did not seek to interfere in the vote. The intelligence community said it made these assessments with high confidence and insisted that no foreign actors "attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process."

"Foreign malign influence is an enduring challenge facing our country," Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in a statement on Tuesday. "These efforts by U.S. adversaries seek to exacerbate divisions and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions."

The intelligence community’s declassified report, which omits some details that may otherwise expose sensitive sources and methods, reflects the most comprehensive review of the government’s ongoing efforts to combat foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Ahead of the 2020 vote, national security officials in the Trump administration warned that America’s adversaries were waging a widespread influence operation intended to undermine confidence in the democratic process – similar to Russia’s efforts in 2016. Unlike the 2016 election, however, Tuesday’s report noted that Russian actors did not attempt to tamper with election infrastructure.

Former President Donald Trump delivers the keynote address at CPAC, the annual convention of the American Conservative Union, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Florida.
David Butow/Redux Pictures, FILE

Instead, Moscow employed "proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives-including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden-to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration," the report said.

The intelligence report did not name those close to Trump.

Despite warnings from the Trump administration prior to November’s vote that it was China, not Russia, which posed a greater threat, Tuesday’s findings indicate that Beijing "did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the US Presidential election."

"China sought stability in its relationship with the United States, did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling," the report stated.

The intelligence community credited "greater public and media awareness of influence operations in 2020 compared to past election cycles" with the successful execution of the election.

"Public disclosure of Russian and Iranian efforts and US Government sanctions on some of the responsible actors probably hindered their ability to operate deniably," the report concluded.

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