Russia’s government tried to seed the 2020 US presidential campaign with “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” against candidate Joe Biden through allies of president Donald Trump and his administration, US intelligence officials said Tuesday.
The assessment was made in a 15-page report into election interference published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It underscores allegations that Trump’s allies were playing into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the November 3 election. Biden defeated Trump and took office on January 20.
US intelligence agencies found other attempts to sway voters, including a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran intended to undercut Trump’s support.
The report assesses “with high confidence” that Iran carried out an influence campaign during the 2020 presidential election. These efforts “intended to undercut the reelection prospects of former President Trump and further its longstanding objectives of exacerbating divisions in the US, creating confusion and undermining the legitimacy of US elections and institutions.”
“There are no indications that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 elections, including voter registration, casting ballots, voter tabulation, or reporting results,” the report said.
“We did not identify Iran engaging in any election interference activities as defined in this assessment,” it said.
Iran’s election influence included “creating or amplifying social media content that criticized former president Trump – probably because they believed that this would advance Iran’s longstanding objectives and undercut the prospects for the former president’s reelection without provoking retaliation,” the report said.
The assessment also mentioned Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He “probably” authorized the influence campaign, it said, adding that “it was a whole of government effort.”
“Iran focused its social media and propaganda on perceived vulnerabilities in the United States, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession, and civil unrest,” the report said.
Beijing “did not deploy interference efforts,” it said.
“China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught,” the report said.
US officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah to influence the election, although “in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran.”
US intelligence agencies and former special counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election to boost Trump’s candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.