A report released last Friday by the Director of National Intelligence indicates that Russia, China, and Iran are engaged in sabotage efforts to influence the 2020 presidential election.
China and Iran are attempting to hurt President Donald Trump's reelection efforts, while Russia hopes to spread allegations that Joe Biden is corrupt, the report said. The report underscores that while none of the three countries can meaningfully interfere with ballots or results, they are taking aim at information American voters receive. All three may attempt to throw into question the results of the upcoming election.
"Foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process," the report reads. "They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results."
Each country has its own aims and means in electoral interference, the report said.
Russia's operations target former vice president Joe Biden, whom the Kremlin sees as part of an "anti-Russia ‘establishment'" in the United States, while "some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television." This strategy includes pro-Moscow Ukrainians sporting claims about Biden’s corruption. The Democratic candidate’s son Hunter served as a board member for Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father served as vice president.
China, meanwhile, is working to support Biden, according to the DNI report. "We assess that China prefers that President Trump—whom Beijing sees as unpredictable—does not win reelection," it reads. China hopes to shape the policy environment through counter-sanctions and information campaigns before the 2020 election.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters China did not pose a threat to the election, especially in comparison to Russia. "They're not equivalent," she said. "Russia is actively, 24/7 interfering in our election. They did so in 2016, and they are doing so now," Pelosi said. China may prefer Biden, she added, "but they’re not really getting involved in the presidential election."
Tehran also appears to be working against the Trump campaign. "Driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change," Iran will continue spreading anti-U.S. information online, the report says. While Iran inches closer to China and Russia, Washington has retooled its Iran staff—appointing Elliott Abrams special envoy to Tehran—and prepares to tighten sanctions if a U.N. arms embargo fails to pass in October.