Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News that China poses “a greater threat to the national security” of the United States “than any other nation,” detailing a web of threats including “the influence and electoral interference ”.
Intelligence officials say they are increasingly concerned about China’s interference in the US elections, adding to existing concerns about Russian interference that have existed since 2016, as well as the threat of interference from Iran. .
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“China poses a greater threat to the national security of the United States than any other nation – economically, militarily and technologically. This includes threats of electoral influence and interference, ”Ratcliffe told Fox News in a statement.
While Russia was widely seen as favoring the current President Trump and generally looking to wreak havoc in America in the 2016 election, the difference with China is that it seeks to lose Trump in November. Yet Congress Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who since 2016 have issued dire warnings about Russian interference, have failed was also eloquent about China’s potential to interfere in the 2020 elections.
Pelosi, D-Calif., Said last week that threats of interference from Russia and China are “not equal,” while urging the intelligence community to release more information on Russia’s efforts , claiming that Moscow “actively interferes 24/7 in our elections. . ”
Ratcliffe said the threat from China is in fact significant and that it “commits the IC resources necessary to fully understand the threat posed by China and to provide US policymakers with the best intelligence to counter broad malicious activity. and deep from China.
“China is concerned that President Trump’s re-election will lead to the continuation of policies it perceives as ‘anti-China’,” Ratcliffe explained, noting that the intelligence community has informed “hundreds of members of Congress” for express their concerns about China. “And his increased efforts to influence the American political climate in his favor.”
“Fair and free elections are the foundation of American democracy, and the IC remains vigilant against the various activities of China, as well as other countries and actors under threat, which seek to affect our electoral process,” Ratcliffe said.
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The intelligence community acknowledged that Russian interference remained a threat in 2020, but specifically mentioned China’s efforts, which an intelligence community official said have intensified in recent months, citing rhetoric between the United States and China.
China’s cyber-efforts, in regards to efforts to influence elections, are an anti-Trump administration and largely include fake social media accounts to amplify certain anti-American beliefs.
According to a report published this month by Graphika, the social media accounts of the pro-Chinese political spam network Spamouflage Dragon began posting videos in English that attacked US politics and the Trump administration in June.
The report found that some of the accounts created on YouTube and Twitter used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence, which is a common technique in disinformation campaigns, and did not appear to receive “genuine user” engagement. on social media platforms.
The efforts also did not appear to “seriously attempt to cover up his Chinese origin as he turned to messages related to US policy,” the report said.
Specifically, the report found that some of the anti-Trump messages are linked to the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice protests across the United States.
A video titled “Who is responsible for this national disaster in the United States?” Published on July 12, called Trump a “strong and creative ally” of the coronavirus, according to the report. The tone, according to Graphika, “has fluctuated between scathing criticism of the US government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and apparent sympathy for everyday US citizens exposed to the pandemic and anti-racism protests.
Meanwhile, regarding the intelligence community’s readiness for the 2020 versus 2016 election to handle malicious influence activity, an ODNI official told Fox News that the intelligence community was ” considerably ahead of what it was in 2016 in terms of updating the American people on electoral threats, including China. ”
The ODNI official also told Fox News that the intelligence community supports the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI in their efforts to help state and local authorities protect electoral infrastructure.
The official also said the ODNI was working with the FBI and its network of field offices to bring intelligence information to state and local authorities.
Earlier this month, director of the National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina, who heads the electoral security intelligence community, warned that rival nations were once again trying to influence policy. and the US election in various ways, declaring that Iran wanted to “undermine” President Trump, while Russia “mainly denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden.
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This election threat update also noted that China “prefers” that Trump “does not win re-election” in November.
Evanina said earlier this month that Beijing prefers a loss of Trump because Chinese officials see him as unpredictable, adding that China has broadened its attempt to influence the general election and shape US policy, pushing on the political figures that Chinese officials view as opposed to their country’s interests. .
“Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric in recent months has become increasingly critical of the current administration’s response to COVID-19 , the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and actions on other issues, ”Evanina said earlier this month.
China “has severely criticized the administration’s statements and actions on Hong Kong, TikTok, the legal status of the South China Sea, and China’s efforts to dominate the 5G market,” Evanina said. “Beijing recognizes that all these efforts could affect the presidential election. race. ”
Last month, the Trump administration decided to shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, in part because of the Chinese Communist Party’s targeting of US energy companies.
Later the same day, China ordered the closure of the US consulate in the western city of Chengdu, Sichuan province, in apparent retaliation.
As for TikTok, the Trump administration has taken a tough stand on China’s social media platform, this month issuing an executive order that would see the platform banned in the United States within 45 days.
The US ban has put pressure on the China-based company to sell the app’s US platform – Microsoft is said to be one of the top contenders, but the deal will be closely watched by the Trump administration.
Evanina has delivered nearly 20 classified briefings to Trump and Biden’s presidential campaigns, political committees, and members of Congress – including members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Congressional leaders – on election threats since mid-May.
An ODNI official told Fox News the briefings were led by Evanina and her team, but said officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies were often in attendance.
As for the FBI, Director Christopher Wray has been warning against Chinese efforts to influence American opinion and economic espionage for months.
Earlier this summer, Wray told Fox News that China “certainly” has an interest in “influencing our political thinking” and our policies and is trying to “move them in a more friendly, pro-China and pro-China direction. of the Communist Party ”. He warned that these efforts sometimes ended with electoral questions.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Schiff, D-Calif., Warned that China could use different means to influence the election than Russia and Iran, telling NBC News that the Chinese could use trade talks with the United States.
But a spokesperson for Schiff did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on whether his committee would open an investigation into possible Chinese election interference, as the panel did with efforts to Russian election interference – an investigation that has spanned the entire Trump administration.
A GOP aide told Fox News that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had, however, conducted a China-focused investigation since previous congressional sessions, noting that China was something “of great concern to us.”
“We are looking at it and we have never stopped,” the GOP aide told Fox News.
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, said the Trump administration has been tough on Russia while claiming that China and Iran oppose Trump because he’s so tough on them.
“We don’t need or want foreign interference, and President Trump will beat Joe Biden in a fair and equitable manner,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “The intelligence community’s assessment that China and Iran are trying to stop President Trump’s re-election is concerning, but clearly because he held them accountable after years of pampering by politicians like Joe Biden .