Top Democrats Request an FBI Counterintelligence Briefing about 2020 Election Interference

Top Democrats Request an FBI Counterintelligence Briefing about 2020 Election Interference
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 5, 2020. (Tom Brenner/File Photo/Reuters)
Masooma Haq
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter (pdf) to the FBI Director requesting the Bureau hold a defensive counterintelligence briefing for Congress regarding foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

In the letter to Christopher Wray, the top democrats expressed their concern for a disinformation campaign that they say is targeting Congress and could affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

“We are gravely concerned, in particular, 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 in November,” the democratic members wrote.

In January of this year, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said his agency is expecting Russia to interfere in the upcoming presidential elections, underscoring the need for action at the local, state, and federal levels ahead of the November 2020 polls.

“Unlike China, Russia doesn’t seek to weaken our economy and surpass us on the world-stage; rather they focus on actions that disrupt and undermine the American way of life,” Wolf said, according to a transcript of a speech he gave in January. “As we saw in 2016, we fully expect Russia to attempt to interfere in the 2020 elections to sow public discord and undermine our democratic institutions.”

“We are working with our federal partners to make sure those officials on the frontlines of our elections have the information and the tools they need to combat Russian interference,” Wolf added.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray was asked about the intelligence on the possibility of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) meddling with the 2020 presidential elections in July, to which he responded that there are chances given the severity of China’s malign influence campaign against the United States (pdf).

“Well, I would say that of course, China's malign foreign influence campaign targets our policies, our positions, 24/7, 365 days a year. So, it's not an election specific threat. It's really more of an all year, all the time threat,” Wray said.

Wolf echoed Wray’s sentiments about the CCP. Saying the CCP, “uses the openness of our society and institutions against us—be it our academic and scientific communities, or Silicon Valley—to aggressively expand its ability to shape information and the Chinese narrative abroad.”

In a 2019 Joint Statement from the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), National Intelligence (DNI), FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) on Ensuring Security of 2020 Elections the officials said, “Election security is a top priority for the United States government”.

The federal agencies said they are proactively, sharing information with all levels of government to mitigate any threats to the election process.

“In an unprecedented level of coordination, the U.S. government is working with all 50 states and U.S. territories, local officials, and private sector partners to identify threats, broadly share information, and protect the democratic process. We remain firm in our commitment to quickly share timely and actionable information, provide support and services, and to defend against any threats to our democracy,” the joint statement said.

“Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment, and affect government policies. Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” continued the joint statement.

The joint statement said these countries use a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations, or conducting disruptive or destructive cyberattacks on state and local infrastructure to achieve their goals.

While the Democrats' letter to Wray does not name specific countries or threats, they have been concerned about election interference particularly, from Russia, since President Donald Trump was elected.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not reply immediately to the Epoch Times' request for comment on the Democrats’ letter.

Masooma Haq began reporting for The Epoch Times from Pakistan in 2008. She currently covers a variety of topics including U.S. government, culture, and entertainment.