Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Vermont has alleged that some Americans may have been duped into spreading Russian “disinformation” about former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The intelligence community ten days ago said that the Russians are back trying to interfere in our elections again, that they have a disinformation, misinformation campaign targeted against Vice President Biden. I think it’s incumbent upon the intelligence community to lay out more of the facts of what we know about that misinformation campaign,” Warner said, speaking to Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd on Sunday.
“My fear is that there may be Americans that are unwittingly promoting that Russian disinformation campaign, and I think they need to be briefed, so they don’t become – agents in effect of this disinformation campaign,” he added.
Warner, the top Democratic lawmaker on the Senate intelligence committee, did not specify what sorts of “Russian disinformation” specifically Americans need to worry about.
On August 7, Bill Evanina, America’s top counterintelligence official, accused Russia, China and Iran of trying to meddle in the 2020 US presidential campaign, with the foreign actors said to be expressing a preference regarding who wins the election “through a range of overt and private statements,” as well as “covert influence efforts,” although these are said to be “rarer.”
Accusing Russia of seeking to “denigrate” Biden, Evanina cited a Ukrainian lawmaker’s publication of tapes of conversations between the former vice president Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in which Biden allegedly pressured the Ukrainian leader into firing a prosecutor investigating his family, on pain of withholding a $1 billion loan agreement to Ukraine.
China, meanwhile, is rooting for Trump to lose, according to Evanina, and has sought to “pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interest.”
Instead, Mueller pointed to alleged Russian meddling in the form of troll campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Google aimed at disparaging Clinton and pumping up Trump. However, internal probes by these social media companies found little evidence to support Mueller’s allegations. Facebook reported in 2017, for example, that ‘Russia-related entities’ had spent a total of about $100,000 on Facebook for political ads during the period between June 2015 and May 2017. In late 2018, Google disclosed to Congress that ‘Russian-linked accounts’ spent just $4,700 on political ads during the 2016 cycle.
Despite the lack of evidence, the US has exhausted its stock of Russian entities to sanction over the alleged meddling in 2016, with Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, telling Axios last week that his department had “run out of individuals” on whom to place restrictions.