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US Intelligence: China working against Trump in election and Russia working against Biden

Donald Trump in Phoenix, Ariz. in Feb. 2020. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr) | Joe Biden in Altoona, Iowa in Aug. 2019. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
August 07, 2020

A new intelligence report released by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Friday says that China prefers to denigrate President Donald Trump so that he does not win reelection in November. Meanwhile, Russian efforts appear aimed at denigrating Trump’s Democratic presidential rival, Joe Biden, while boosting Trump’s candidacy on social media and in Russian television.

The report, released by the director of the DNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) William Evanina, is part of a regular effort to maintain U.S. election security.

“We assess that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China,” the report states, providing its assessment of China’s motives for the election.

The report noted Chinese concerns over a range of recent actions by the Trump administration.

“For example, it has harshly criticized the Administration’s statements and actions on Hong Kong, TikTok, the legal status of the South China Sea, and China’s efforts to dominate the 5G market,” the report states. “Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race.”

Assessing Russia’s interests in the election, the report states, “We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’ This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.”

The report goes on to state a “pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian” by the name of Andriy Derkach is also seeking to harm Biden by releasing leaked phone conversations between Biden and Ukrainian government officials, alleging corruption by Biden in the Ukraine.

The anti-Biden efforts appear to reference conversations in 2016 between Biden and Ukrainian officials, in which Biden appeared to hold up $1 billion in U.S. aid to the country in exchange for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor.  The Ukrainian prosecutor was reportedly investigating a gas company that had hired Biden’s son Hunter to its board of directors, named Burisma Holdings.

“Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” the report states.

The DNI report also assessed “that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections.”

“Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content,” the report continues. “Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change.”

The report indicated the NCSC has provided nearly 20 classified briefings to each candidate since mid-May.

“We will also keep providing updates to the American public, consistent with our national security obligations. The steps we have taken thus far to inform the public and other stakeholders on election threats are unprecedented for the [Intelligence Community],” the report states.