US intel says Russia, Iran sought to influence 2020 election


Russia and Iran undertook campaigns to influence the 2020 U.S. election but intelligence agencies found no evidence that foreign actors tried to alter technical aspects of the voting process, according to conclusions of a declassified report released Tuesday. 

A classified version of the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was presented to then-President Trump, Congressional leadership and intelligence oversight committees on Jan. 7. The report did not state if it was made available to President Biden, who had not yet entered office.

Among five key judgements outlined in the declassified report is that no foreign actor interfered in the 2020 voting process.

“We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 US elections, including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results,” the report reads.

Yet it concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin “authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted” influence operations aimed at undermining Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party in favor of Trump.

The Kremlin’s campaign sought to undermine public confidence in the electoral process and inflame sociopolitical divisions, the report said, but did not see Russian cyber efforts gain access to election infrastructure.  

“A key element of Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives — including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden – to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration,” the report states.

The ODNI report said the unclassified version released Tuesday is identical in its conclusions to the classified version that was presented to the White House and Congress, but that it withheld key evidence sources or methods.

Trump railed against the election results and claimed that he won the election, perpetuating a false narrative that widespread fraud led to his loss. Former Trump administration officials, including then-Attorney General William Barr, asserted there was no evidence of widespread fraud that could alter the outcome of the elections. Trump’s numerous efforts to challenge the results in court were tossed out. His false claims about the election eventually fueled supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Russia similarly sought to damage then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and aid Trump during the 2016 campaign by releasing hacked emails tied to Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

In addition to Russia's operations at influencing the election, U.S. officials also concluded that Iran carried out operations to influence the 2020 election against Trump.

Tehran undertook a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump’s reelection prospects — though without directly promoting his rivals — undermine public confidence in the electoral process and US institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the US.”

The report states that China “considered” but did not try to influence the election to change its outcome.

Officials also found evidence that other foreign actors including Lebanese Hizballah, Cuba and Venezuela, took limited steps to try to influence the election such as cyber criminals disrupting preparations for elections, the report says, but it describes the steps as smaller in scale and likely driven by financial motivations.

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