China, Russia and Iran are among the countries seeking to influence this year’s US presidential election, a US intelligence chief has warned.
A statement issued by the director of US counterintelligence said foreign states use “overt and overt measures of influence” to influence the vote.
These nations “have a preference for who wins elections,” he added.
U.S. intelligence chiefs say Russia intervened in the 2016 election to aid President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Russia has denied the allegations.
Asked at a press conference on Friday about what he plans to do about the election interference report, President Trump said his administration would review it “very closely.”
The announcement comes amid Mr. Trump’s claims about the dangers of postal or postal votes. He suggested that the vote be delayed to avoid “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history”, provoking a backlash even among members of his own party.
It also follows complaints from Democratic lawmakers that U.S. intelligence agencies are not disclosing information to the public about foreign interference in this year’s vote.
Republican President Mr. Trump is seeking a second term. His challenger is Democratic candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.
What does the declaration say?
William Evanina, head of the National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center (NCSC), released the statement on Friday.
Foreign countries are trying to influence voter preferences, change US policies, “increase discord” in the country “and undermine the confidence of the American people in our democratic process,” Mr. Evanina said.
The counterintelligence chief, however, added that it would be “difficult for our adversaries to interfere or manipulate the results of large-scale votes”.
Many countries “have a preference for the winner of the election,” he said, but the director of counterintelligence said they were “primarily concerned” about China, Russia and Iran:
- China “prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing considers unpredictable – not to win re-election,” the statement said, and “broadened its influence efforts” ahead of the vote
- Russia seeks to “denigrate” the candidacy of Mr. Biden and other members of a “perceived” anti-Russian “establishment”. Mr Evanina added that some other players linked to Russia “are also looking to bolster President Trump’s candidacy on Russian social media and television”
- Iran is trying to “undermine America’s democratic institutions,” Mr. Trump, and “divide the country” ahead of the vote by spreading misinformation and “anti-American content” online. Their efforts are in part motivated by the belief that a second term for the president “would result in continued US pressure on Iran in an effort to instigate regime change.”
At Friday’s press conference, Trump said Russia “may” meddle in this year’s election, but dismissed the idea that the country could try to help him win a second term. “I think the last person Russia wants to see in power is Donald Trump,” he said, saying “no one has been harder on Russia than me, ever”.
He also said China “would love” if he lost the election, saying “they would own our country” if Joe Biden won.
The release of the statement comes after members of the Democratic Party expressed concern over attempts by foreign nations to influence the vote.
- US imposes sanctions on Hong Kong CEO
US House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that information on current efforts to influence the vote “should be available to the American people.”
In his statement, Mr. Evanina said his agency “has provided and will continue to provide classified information on electoral threats” to candidates and politicians.
What happened in 2016?
A number of US intelligence agencies and officials have concluded that Russia helped influence the 2016 presidential election.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller – appointed special adviser to investigate the vote – has not established that Mr. Trump was in collusion with the effort, but said the president was not exonerated by his report.
- Russian disinformation “continuing problem” according to FBI
- The Trump-Russia saga in 350 words
A number of people involved in Mr. Trump’s campaign have been jailed on various charges related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation.
Charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn – convicted of lying about contacts with Russian government officials – were dropped in July. An appeals court will repeat the arguments later this month.
And Roger Stone, a longtime ally of Mr. Trump, saw his jail sentence for witness tampering and lying in Congress commute the president in July.