The Trump administration released a statement on threats to the 2020 election on Friday afternoon.
“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process. They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results,” NCSC Director William Evanina wrote.
The report specifically mentioned China, Russia and Iran — in that order.
When it came to China, the report referenced public statements by the government.
“We assess that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China. Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current Administration’s COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues. For example, it has harshly 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. Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race,” the report argued.
However, on Russia, the report warned of the country using active measures to interfere.
“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’ This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia. For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party. Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” the report said.
The difference between the two was quickly noted online.
“Why is China on the Evanina list for election interference?” Daily Beast reporter Adam Rawnsley asked on Twitter. “They spell out specific disinformation efforts Russia & Iran are carrying out. China? Uhhh. It’s carrying out its usual foreign policy and ‘recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race.’ What?”
Politico reporter Kyle Cheney predicted Democrats would “hate” the statement:
WHAT'S CLEAR: Democrats will *hate* this statement because it appears to draw anequivalence between Russia's specific scheme re: Biden and China's general, public-facing policy pressure.
Ds hated the last statement for the same reason.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 7, 2020
Indeed, Democratic Party strategist Matthew Miller panned it as “complete and total BS.”
The equivalence here between China making official government policy statements, something every government in the world does, and Russia using active measures to target Biden is complete and total BS. https://t.co/bttnlPdAZA
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) August 7, 2020
NCSC Director William Evanina has today issued another election threat update for the American public, building on his July 24, 2020 public statement on foreign threats to the #2020Election. See: https://t.co/0eRd6GgMgF pic.twitter.com/fyXmLIbBQ1
— NCSC (@NCSCgov) August 7, 2020
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