Biden: Countries that interfere in US elections will ‘pay a price’
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday emphasized that any nation that interferes in U.S. elections will “pay a price” while discussing election security during the final presidential debate.
“Any country, no matter who it is, that interferes in American elections will pay a price,” Biden said. “It’s been overwhelmingly clear in this election — won’t even get into the last one — this election that Russia has been involved, China’s been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran is involved.”
“They will pay a price if I am elected. They are interfering with American sovereignty, that’s what’s going on right now,” Biden said.
Biden’s comments were made one day after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced that both nations had gained access to U.S. voter registration data and were aiming to sway public opinions related to the 2020 presidential election.
Ratcliffe said Iran is behind sending spoofed emails that aim to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump. He also said it is behind circulating other content such as a video that appears to encourage individuals to fraudulently cast ballots, even from overseas.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out a separate alert just hours before the debate warning that a Russian group had been targeting dozens of U.S. state and local networks along with networks of aviation sector companies. The group was able to successfully gain access to at least two servers and potentially put election data at risk.
Biden has previously come out strongly against election interference, putting out a statement in July announcing he was “putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice,” and that he would treat election interference as an “adversarial act.”
When asked by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker what he would do to push back against election interference in a second term, Trump lauded sanctions levied against Russia and criticized Biden for alleged ties to Russia.
“There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” Trump said during the debate, not directly answering the wider question of further steps he may take to address election interference.
The Treasury Department has levied sanctions against multiple Russian individuals and groups involved in election interference, including the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm behind many election disinformation efforts.
Trump confirmed during an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year that U.S. Cyber Command took steps to disrupt internet access for the building in St. Petersburg that houses the Internet Research Agency on the night of the U.S. 2018 midterm elections, halting efforts to spread disinformation as Americans went to the polls.
But Trump has been criticized by Democrats for not doing enough to address election interference, particularly following a 2018 press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin when Trump initially refused to denounce Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Election security has been a major topic of concern since 2016, since intelligence officials concluded that Russia launched a sweeping and sophisticated campaign to interfere in U.S. elections in 2016 in which the Kremlin sought to help Trump win the election through cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.
Biden pointed to criticism around Trump’s response to Russian interference on Thursday night.
“I don’t know why he hasn’t said a word to Putin about it, and I don’t know what he has recently if anything to the Iranians. My guess is he may be more outspoken to the Iranians. But the point is this, folks: We are in a situation where we have foreign countries trying to interfere in the outcome of our election,” Biden said.