Trump administration: No evidence foreign entity had 'material impact' on midterms

Trump administration: No evidence foreign entity had 'material impact' on midterms
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced that it has found no evidence that any foreign entity had a "material impact" on election systems during the 2018 midterms.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump's acting ICE chief to leave post Trump's fight with city leaders escalates Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to 'swatting' Black church, Cabinet official, journalists MORE reached that conclusion in a joint classified report submitted to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE on Monday, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security said in a joint statement.

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“Although the specific conclusions within the joint report must remain classified, the Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress,” the statement read.

The joint report examined any potential foreign interference with election systems, as well as with candidates and campaigns.

The statement said the classified report was based off an earlier assessment on potential election interference from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

And the departments said efforts to secure the 2020 elections “are already underway.”

The announcement came as part of an executive order issued by Trump last year, mandating that the intelligence community and other federal agencies determine whether there was any foreign interference efforts during U.S. elections.

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet America's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down MORE submitted his office’s report to the White House and other departments in December.

While the report was not made public, he said in a statement at the time that the U.S. intelligence community “does not have intelligence reporting that indicates any compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the ability to tally votes.”

Coats did note that other foreign entities, including Russia, had conducted influence campaigns in the run-up to the 2018 election

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that these activities had on the outcome of the 2018 election,” he said of the influence operations. “The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

Tuesday's joint statement did not make any mention of influence operations.

A threat assessment released by the intelligence community last week also found that countries like Russia, China and Iran “probably already are looking to the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.”

“More broadly, US adversaries and strategic competitors almost certainly will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine US alliances and partnerships, and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere,” the report states. “We expect our adversaries and strategic competitors to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”

The Justice Department has previously indicted a Russian woman for her role in running a Russian influence operation known as Project Lakhta. That filing, unsealed weeks ahead of the midterm elections, was the first charge to directly tie an influence campaign to those races.