03:23 GMT28 September 2020
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    The last time that US intelligence agencies and Democratic leaders accused Russia of meddling in America's presidential election, in 2016, it led to a three-year-long investigation, which came up empty in 2019 with the release of the Mueller report.

    Russia, China and Iran may be interfering in the 2020 US presidential campaign, with Russia specifically using a 'range of measures' to target presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden, National Counterintelligence and Security Center director Bill Evanina announced Friday.

    "Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer," Evanina said in a statement published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    "We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment'," Evanina noted.

    "This is consistent with Moscow's public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration's policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia," the official added.

    Evanina did not offer any evidence to back up the allegation, except to suggest that 'pro-Russian' Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach has been "spreading claims about corruption - including through publicizing leaked phone calls," to undermine Biden and the Democrats. "Some Kremlin-leaked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump's candidacy on social media and Russian television," he added, again without offering specific examples.

    Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden smiles during an event to announce his plans to combat racial inequality in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 28, 2020.
    © REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST
    Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden smiles during an event to announce his plans to combat racial inequality in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 28, 2020.

    China, meanwhile, wants President Donald Trump to lose the upcoming election, in the US intelligence community's estimation. "We assess that China prefers that President Trump -whom Beijing sees as unpredictable - does not win reelection. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China's interest, and deflect and counter criticism of China," Evanina said.

    The official did not point to any specific examples of these Chinese 'influence efforts', apart from public statements by Chinese officials criticizing the Trump administration on issues ranging from the coronavirus to the recent closure of the PRC's Houston Consulate to the US move to try to shut down Chinese video sharing service TikTok.

    U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fists at supporters gathered to greet him on the airport tarmac during his arrival at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., August 6, 2020
    © REUTERS / JOSHUA ROBERTS
    U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fists at supporters gathered to greet him on the airport tarmac during his arrival at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., August 6, 2020
    In the case of Iran, that country simply "seeks to undermine US democratic institutions" generally, to attack President Trump "and divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections," according to Evanina. The Islamic Republic's efforts are expected to be limited mostly to "online influence," such as "spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content," in the counterintelligence chief's view.

    Evanina believes that as the 2020 election approaches, "foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway US voters' preferences and perspectives, shift US policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people's confidence in our democratic process. 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."

    Democratic officials spent three years of Trump's term in office accusing him of being Russia's 'puppet' and claiming that his campaign and the Kremlin 'colluded' to win the 2016 presidential race. Proponents of these allegations suffered a serious blow in April 2019, when former FBI Director Robert Mueller released his long-awaited investigation on the matter, finding no evidence of collusion, and an alleged 'Russian meddling campaign' limited mostly to funding some trolls on Facebook and Twitter.

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