National Security

US warns of ‘ongoing’ election interference by Russia, China, Iran

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U.S. national security agencies said Friday they are concerned about “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China and Iran to interfere in American politics, an alarming statement that comes as voters have begun to cast ballots in this year’s midterm elections.

In a joint statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security said they “do not have any evidence” that foreign countries have disrupted the voting process or changed any tallies, but that the campaigns have spread “disinformation” and “foreign propaganda.”

{mosads}”We are concerned about ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies,” the statement said. “These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections.”

The statement comes weeks before Election Day on Nov. 6, when voters around the country will have a final chance to vote in Senate, House and gubernatorial races.

It was quickly followed by a Justice Department announcement that a Russian woman has been charged with making fraudulent social media postings intended to “sow division and discord” among U.S. voters, the first case brought against a Russian over alleged interference in the midterm elections.

The charges, which were announced separately from the statement, nonetheless drove home U.S. officials’ fears that Russia may be trying to reprise its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, which is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

National security adviser John Bolton is scheduled to travel to Moscow over the weekend for meetings with top officials in which he is expected to raise the issue.

Election meddling has been a lingering concern for U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies ever since the 2016 contest, with officials repeatedly warning that the 2018 midterms would be a target for foreign powers.

The joint statement cautioned of efforts by foreign actors to use social media “to amplify divisive issues” and air content in English through outlets like RT and Sputnik, which allows them to plant “disinformation through sympathetic spokespersons regarding political candidates.”

The officials commended state and local leaders for fending off attempts by foreign nationals to access voter registration databases and other cyber hacking efforts.

Despite those warnings, President Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to boost his campaign.

Those comments have caused frustration among members of Congress and some state and local officials tasked with protecting their voter databases.

Trump has recently accused China of meddling in the midterm elections, seeking to focus more attention on Beijing at a time when he is also ramping up efforts to counter China on trade and on its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Vice President Pence delivered a blistering speech earlier this month, in which he accused China of carrying out “an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections” in order to hurt Trump and his Republican allies.

China has repeatedly denied that it is interfering in U.S. elections, and Russia has likewise denied any election meddling efforts in 2016 or this year.

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