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US lawmakers demand FBI briefing on foreign election interference

Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Supreme Court news conference to call for the reversal of President Trump’s travel ban on refugees and immigrants from several Middle East countries. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Top Democrats in the U.S. Congress have demanded an urgent intelligence briefing over what they say is a concerted foreign campaign to spread disinformation to interfere in the November 3 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York), and two other Democrats made the demand in a letter to the FBI released on July 20.

“We are gravely concerned…that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign-interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election,” they said.

The letter cited serious and specific threats to the upcoming presidential and congressional elections and said due to the nature of the threats, the FBI should conduct a classified briefing to all members of Congress by the end of July.

The FBI acknowledged that it had received the letter but had no other comment.

The nature of the disinformation campaign was not made clear and the letter did not attribute the alleged interference campaign to a country.

Intelligence officials already have warned about disinformation campaigns over social media operated by Iran, China, and Russia.

Following the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials determined that Russia interfered by mounting a computer-hacking and social-media-manipulation campaign with the goal of boosting Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

U.S. officials have also said there were multiple foreign hacker efforts to penetrate voting systems in the 2018 congressional elections in what appeared to be a test run for 2020.

In February, an FBI official said Russia was again interfering, seeking to exacerbate divisions and sow distrust in the U.S. election system.

Earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that China was pushing its preferences in the 2020 race in a constant effort to influence the American public.

“It’s not an election-specific threat; it’s really more of an all-year, all-the-time threat,” Wray said. “But certainly that has implications for elections and they certainly have preferences that go along with that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, vowed in a statement that if any foreign power interfered in the election, he would as president “not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.”