Biden vows to fight back against foreign interference efforts if elected

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Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, on Monday vowed to retaliate for any foreign interference in elections if he were to become president in November, saying he was putting foreign adversaries “on notice.”

“Today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice,” Biden said in a lengthy statement released Monday. “If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government.”

Biden described election interference efforts as an “assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote,” and criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to push back against Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security,” Biden said. “They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee criticized Trump for denying that Russian agents interfered in the 2016 elections, notably pointing to Trump’s remarks at a joint conference in Helsinki in 2018 with Russian President Vladimir Putin where Trump said he did not see “any reason” that Russia would have interfered. 

Trump later walked back these remarks, saying that he accepted the findings of the U.S. intelligence community on Russian interference in 2016. 

Biden also called for further sanctions to be placed on foreign adversaries who interfere in U.S. elections, citing a bill signed into law by Trump in 2017 that provides further sanctions powers. While the bill passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, Trump described it as “seriously flawed,” citing concerns over the legislation curtailing executive branch negotiation powers. 

The Treasury Department did levy sanctions last year against the Russian Internet Research Agency and multiple individuals responsible for spreading disinformation around the 2018 midterm elections, which followed a round of sanctions against nine Russian nationals for interference efforts in the 2016 elections.

Biden said despite these efforts, the Trump administration had not done enough to push back against foreign interference. 

“In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections,” Biden said. 

Biden vowed that if elected, he would “direct and resource” the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the State Department and the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force to develop plans to help disrupt any detected foreign interference efforts against U.S. elections. 

He emphasized that while he had “no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country,” particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, he would “not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs” on adversaries interfering in the elections process.

Biden’s statement was rolled out the same day Democratic leaders in the House and Senate requested a classified briefing from the FBI on foreign election interference efforts, citing concerns that members of Congress were being targeted by a “concerted foreign interference campaign” ahead of the November elections.

Election security has been in the spotlight since the 2016 elections, during which Russian actors targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states, launched a sweeping disinformation campaign on social media intended to favor the Trump campaign, and hacked into the Democratic National Committee networks. 

Earlier this year, reports emerged that Russian agents were interfering in the 2020 elections in favor of both Trump and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) 

Sanders described Putin at the time as a “thug” and emphasized that “unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Joe Biden Vladimir Putin

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