Democrats say Trump must tell voters about election threats

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WASHINGTON – Democratic Congressional leaders are pressuring U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration over foreign electoral interference, saying it’s time for officials to make a “concrete and specific statement” to educate voters ahead of the 2020 competition. Democrats did not specify exactly what they wanted the administration to say. But the call comes as the country’s intelligence agencies, congressional intelligence committees and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have all warned of renewed interference this year. Trump himself has been reluctant to discuss the matter or admit that Russia tried to sow discord in the 2016 contest by hacking Democratic accounts and spreading inflammatory material on social media.

The Democrats’ letter on Friday was in response to a statement made earlier today by William Evanina, the government’s counterintelligence officer. The statement said adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran are seeking to compromise U.S. private communications and infrastructure in the countryside. He also warned against spreading disinformation on social media.

Without giving details, Democrats said Evanina’s statement “does not go far enough to arm the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers seek to influence our political process” and incorrectly qualifies the three countries of equivalents in their efforts. The statement was from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, and Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the Senate’s most Democratic on the intelligence.

“We can trust Americans to know what to do with the information they receive and to make those decisions for themselves,” Democrats said. “But they can’t do it if they are kept in the dark about what our opponents are doing and how they are doing it. When it comes to American elections, Americans must decide. ”

Democrats specifically criticized the line of Evanina’s statement that Russia has an ongoing goal of weakening the United States and “denigrating what it sees as an anti-Russian ‘establishment’ in America.” They said that line “omits a lot on a subject of immense importance” and that it is “so generic that it is almost meaningless.”

In her statement, Evanina said it would be “extremely difficult” for opponents to largely disrupt the fall election or change the number of votes, but that “we continue to monitor malicious cyber actors who attempt to access US state and federal networks, including those responsible for election management. ”

Specifically, said Evanina, China “is expanding its influence efforts to shape the political environment in the United States, to lobby politicians it sees as opposed to China’s interests and against criticism of the United States. China ”. Iran is also spreading disinformation to undermine American institutions, he said.

It’s unclear what information the Democrats want to make public. On Monday, the same four Democrats wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that they feared Congress appeared to be the target of a “concerted foreign interference campaign” to influence the 2020 presidential election. They have asked Wray for a confidential briefing to all members on the matter before the August break.

Democrats, including members of the Senate Intelligence Panel, have expressed fears that an ongoing Republican investigation into Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his work in Ukraine will amplify Russian disinformation. But they didn’t specifically mention the investigation, which is being conducted by Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

The warnings from all quarters follow bipartisan criticism of how President Barack Obama’s administration handled the 2016 interference as it happened. A bipartisan Congressional report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year said the Obama administration was ill-prepared to manage and failed to respond effectively as officials feared being caught in an environment highly politicized and undermine elections.

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