US intel warns of election meddling
PIC: AFP

US intelligence officials believe that Russia is using a variety of measures to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead of the November election and that individuals linked to the Kremlin are boosting President Donald Trump's reelection bid, the country's counterintelligence chief said in the most specific warning to date about the threat of foreign interference.

US officials also believe China does not want Trump to win a second term and has accelerated its criticism of the White House, expanding its efforts to shape public policy in America and to pressure political figures seen as opposed to Beijing's interests.

The statement Friday from William Evanina is believed to be the most pointed declaration by the US intelligence community linking the Kremlin to efforts to get Trump reelected - a sensitive subject for a president who has rejected intelligence agency assessments that Russia tried to help him in 2016.

It also connects Moscow's disapproval of Biden to his role as vice president in shaping Obama administration policies supporting Ukraine, an important US ally, and opposing Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Asked about the intelligence assessment Friday evening in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump appeared to dispute the idea that Russia was disparaging Biden. "I think the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have - ever," he said.

But the president seemed to agree with the intelligence indicating China didn't want him reelected. "If Joe Biden was president, China would own our country," he said.

Evanina's statement, three months before the election, comes amid criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats that the intelligence community has been withholding from the public specific intelligence information about the threat of foreign interference in American politics.

"The facts are chilling," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., wrote in an op-ed published Friday evening in The Washington Post. "I believe the American public needs and deserves to know them. The information should be declassified immediately." The latest intelligence assessment reflects concerns not only about Russia but China and Iran as well, warning that hostile foreign actors may seek to compromise election infrastructure, interfere with the voting process or call into question voting results.

Trump has routinely resisted the idea that the Kremlin favored him in 2016, but the intelligence assessment released Friday indicates that unnamed Kremlin-linked actors are again working to boost his candidacy on social media and Russian television.

The White House reacted to Friday's news with a statement saying "the United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our electoral processes and will respond to malicious foreign threats that target our democratic institutions."

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