Intelligence bulletin warns Russia to amplify false claims that postal voting will lead to widespread fraud

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“We believe Russia is likely to continue to amplify criticism of postal voting and the evolution of voting processes amid the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public confidence in the electoral process,” it reads in the newsletter, first reported by ABC News.

The warning comes a day after Attorney General Bill Barr condemned states for encouraging postal voting in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Barr also downplayed Russia’s well-documented attempts to help Trump in the presidential elections, including this election cycle, instead pointing the finger at China despite intelligence agencies not saying Beijing is meddling. actively elections.

News of the DHS document drew immediate criticism from the Democratic chairman of House Intelligence Committee representative Adam Schiff.

“The new DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis bulletin highlights two worrying facts: First, as the intelligence community confirmed last month, Russia is once again seeking to interfere in our elections and sow mistrust in our democratic process. And second, among the range of measures it pursues, Russia echoes the destructive and false accounts around postal voting that President Trump and his facilitators, including Attorney General Barr, have been actively promoting, ”Schiff said. in a press release.

“This newsletter further demonstrates why ODNI’s cancellation of in-person electoral security briefings for Congress is so dangerous – Congress must be able to directly question and engage with legal professionals. intelligence community tasked with protecting our elections from foreign interference, ”he added.A committee official told CNN that Schiff had previously requested a briefing on another DHS bulletin that was withheld by DHS in July, warning of a Russian plot to spread false information about the candidate’s mental health. Democrat Joe Biden and posed specific questions to the department as part of the committee. ongoing investigation into potential politicization of intelligence agencies.

In a draft newsletter obtained by ABC News and confirmed by DHS titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” analysts said with “great confidence” that ” Malignant influence Russians will likely continue to denigrate presidential candidates. by allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election. ”The bulletin, which was produced by DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), also raised China’s efforts and Iran to criticize President Donald Trump, ABC reported.

After news of this bulletin broke, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said his department was working on revising the intelligence report.

“The report you are referring to was ultimately a very poorly drafted report,” Wolf said in an interview with Fox News. “When I spoke to career managers at I&A, the office that produced the report, they also had questions about this. They are working hard to rewrite this report, put it in a better context, and I hope to see this report released. soon. “

Barr doubles down on his postal voting conspiracy theory

In his interview with CNN on Wednesday, Barr doubled down on his conspiracy theory that foreign countries would print a large number of fake mail-in ballots and send them to voters.

Experts say this plan would be nearly impossible to implement and does not pose a serious threat to the election, although Barr’s repeated promotion of the theory has given Trump more fuel to continue to question the legitimacy of the election. postal vote.

Fact Checking of Attorney General William Barr's Allegations of Election Fraud, Election Interference and Jacob Blake

Asked about the evidence he has to support this theory, Barr said he “relies on logic.”

Barr also diluted the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia is the only country to actively interfere in the 2020 election.

“I accept that there is some preliminary activity that suggests they might try again,” Barr said of Russia. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Russia tried something of the same general kind again before. ”

Senior U.S. intelligence officials, tasked with protecting the 2020 election, recently said there was no evidence that foreign countries were interfering with the postal voting process in that country.

Biparty officials across the country have expanded postal voting this year, and public health officials are encouraging it as a means of pandemic-friendly voting. Only nine states and the District of Columbia automatically send ballots to all registered voters – which is the specific system that Trump and Barr say poses the greatest risk of fraud.

When election misinformation comes from Trump, hands of national security officials are tied

Last week, a senior intelligence official ruled out the possibility of foreign actors mass-producing fake ballots to interfere in the November election, again breaking with Trump who has continued to insist that the postal voting poses a significant threat to electoral security.

“We have no information or intelligence that an actor in the threat of a nation-state is engaging in any activity… to undermine any part of the postal ballot or ballot papers,” the official told reporters.

A senior FBI official also said at the time that they had not seen evidence of coordinated national electoral fraud related to mail-in ballots and the office ruled that even if there was fraud, this did not would not tip the balance of election results. Trump has repeatedly promoted the baseless lie that there is massive voter fraud in the US election.

The FBI is “fully aware” of the expectation that there will be an increase in the number of ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic – circumstances which have created a new environment with this electoral cycle, the senior official said.

However, at the time, senior officials declined to discuss Russia’s efforts to capture the president’s attempts to sow mistrust and doubt on the mail during the vote.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Marshall Cohen and Pamela Brown contributed to this report.

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