A report by US intelligence officials has revealed that Russian President, Vladimir Putin authorized “influence operations” to help Donald Trump in last November’s Presidential election.
According to the report released from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, there were broad efforts by the Kremlin and Iran to shape the outcome of the race. These include efforts by Iran to undermine confidence in the vote and harm Trump’s re-election prospects. As well as Moscow operations that relied on Trump’s allies to smear Joe Biden, the eventual winner.
Despite those threats, though, intelligence officials found “no indications that any foreign actor attempted to interfere in the 2020 US elections by altering any technical aspect of the voting process. Including voter registration, ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting results.”
Experts say the report represents the most detailed assessment of the array of foreign threats to the 2020 election.
It is also seen as the latest official affirmation of the integrity of the 2020 elections. And comes as Trump supporters continue to make claims of foreign or domestic interference, thereby refusing to accept Biden’s victory.
According to intelligence officials, Russia sought to influence people close to Trump to tip the election in his favour. The report says Putin authorized “influence operations” aimed at denigrating Biden, boosting Trump, undermining confidence in the election and exacerbating social divisions in the U.S.
Central to that effort was reliance on proxies linked to Russian intelligence “to launder influence narratives” by using media organizations, U.S. officials and people close to Trump to push “misleading or unsubstantiated” allegations against Biden.
It further explains that Russia tried to undermine Biden because it viewed his presidency as opposed to the Kremlin’s interests. The Kremlin, however, took some steps to prepare for a Democratic administration as the election neared, according to the report.
This isn’t the first time Russia has interfered in US elections. US intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded Russia also interfered in the 2016 US election. This was to boost Trump’s candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Notably, though, officials say Russia was not as aggressive as in past election cycles in trying to hack election infrastructure.
US intelligence found other attempts to sway voters, including a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran to undercut Trump’s support.
Iran’s efforts, which officials say were more aggressive than in past elections, continued even after the contest was over. It was focused on sowing discord in the U.S., likely because Tehran believed that they could hurt Trump’s re-election chances.
Though Iran sought to exploit vulnerabilities on state election websites, and did “compromise US entities associated with election infrastructure as a part of a broad targeting effort across multiple sectors worldwide,” it did not attempt to manipulate votes or affect election infrastructure, the report concluded.
Additionally, the report debunks a counter-narrative pushed by Trump’s allies that China was interfering on Biden’s behalf. It concludes that Beijing “did not deploy interference efforts”.
The officials said they believe Beijing prioritized a stable relationship with the US. And did not consider either election outcome as advantageous enough for it to risk the “blowback” that would ensue if it got caught with interfering.