Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden directly contradicted the position of Attorney General William Barr and said that it’s Russia, not China, that poses the greatest election security threat to the United States.
“There are a lot of countries around the world I think would be happy to see our elections destabilized, but the one that’s working the hardest, most consistently, and never has let up is Russia,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sept. 4.
“It’s not consistent with briefings I’ve received. He’s a lousy enough attorney general, but he’s a really bad intelligence officer,” the former vice president said.
Barr told CNN on Sept. 3 that he believes China poses the greatest threat.
“I believe it’s China,” Barr said. “Because I’ve seen the intelligence. That’s what I concluded.”
The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NSCS) assessed in July that China, Russia, and Iran are seeking to undermine the 2020 U.S. elections. NCSC Director William Evanina said last month that China prefers for President Donald Trump to lose the 2020 election.
Barr noted he wouldn’t be surprised “if Russia tries something again.”
“Influence is basically two kinds of things. It’s hack-and-dump, you get into someone’s mail system and then try to disclose embarrassing documents. It wouldn’t surprise me if they try something like that or any other country tries it. The other way is social media and putting things out on social media,” Barr said.
In his remarks on Sept. 4, Biden insinuated a connection between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ken Farnaso, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary, responded to Biden’s remarks by pointing out that Trump has taken actions to hold both China and Russia accountable.
“There’s no question that President Trump has held Russia and China accountable more than any president before him, imposing debilitating sanctions and expelling rogue diplomats,” Farnaso told The Epoch Times in an email. “Joe Biden should be the one facing questions of foreign interference, as his campaign employs multiple former DNC staffers who attempted to use the fake Steele dossier to rig the 2016 election.”
According to Evanina, Beijing is ramping up its influence efforts by attempting to shape U.S. policy, pressuring political figures, and countering criticism of China. Moscow, in the meantime, is using internet trolls and other proxies to spread disinformation and undermine confidence in the election.
“Beijing recognizes its efforts might affect the presidential race,” Evanina said. “Russia’s persistent objective is to weaken the United States and diminish our global role.
Biden said he believes “any country that engages in any activity to delegitimize or impact on American elections is in direct violation of our sovereignty.”
“And if I am president of the United States, there will be a response.”
The Trump campaign hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
The Trump administration’s increasingly hard-line stance against China, including its forced closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston, has led to an increase in criticism against the administration, according to Evanina.
“Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current Administration’s COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues,” Evanina said.
“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. Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race.”
The U.S. electoral system is uniquely resilient to foreign interference, due in part to the diverse systems employed by each state. According to the NSCS, state-level checks and post-election auditing make it virtually impossible for a foreign adversary to broadly disrupt the electoral process or change vote tallies without detection.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.