Biden, lawmakers warn of foreign interference in election

Biden, lawmakers warn of foreign interference in election

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Monday that he is putting Russia and other foreign governments “on notice” that he would act aggressively as president to counter any interference in U.S. elections. The statement came hours after Democratic leaders issued a new warning that Congress appears to be the target of a foreign interference campaign.

Biden said in a statement that he would treat foreign interference as an “an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government.” He criticized President Donald Trump for not doing enough in response to U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“If any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs,” Biden said.

The new alarms give a renewed urgency to concerns that foreign actors could be trying to influence the vote or sow disinformation. Biden said last week that he had begun receiving intelligence briefings and warned that Russia, China and other adversaries were attempting to undermine the presidential election. Biden gave no evidence, but he said that Russia was “still engaged” after 2016 and that China was also involved in efforts to sow doubts in the American electoral process.

During an online fundraiser Monday night, Biden added: “It’s going to be tough, there’s not much I can do about it now except talk about it, and expose it, but it is a serious concern. It is truly a violation of our sovereignty.”

And in an interview on MSNBC, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows I mean what I say.”

The Democratic leaders said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday that they are concerned that Congress appears to be the target of a “concerted foreign interference campaign” to influence the 2020 presidential election. They asked Wray for an all-members, classified briefing on the matter before the August recess.

The letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees contains no details about the threats, though they describe them as serious and specific.

“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” wrote Pelosi, Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel.

A congressional official familiar with the letter said that there was a classified addendum “to ensure a clear and unambiguous record of the counterintelligence threats of concern.” The person, who was granted anonymity to describe the confidential letter, said the addendum largely draws from the executive branch’s own reporting and analysis.

The FBI said it had received the letter but declined further comment.

While the Democrats’ exact concerns were unclear, there have been worries since Trump was elected that Russia’s efforts to sow American chaos are ongoing in the 2020 election. The 2016 effort included hacking of Democratic email accounts during the campaign by Russian military intelligence officials and the subsequent disclosure by WikiLeaks.

Intelligence authorities said that hack-and-leak operation was aimed at helping Trump’s presidential campaign and harming that of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Russians also used a covert social media campaign to spread misinformation and posts aimed at dividing American public opinion. In the end, former special counsel Robert Mueller charged 25 Russian nationals for their roles in foreign interference and influence during the campaign.

Democrats, including members of the Senate intelligence panel, have voiced concerns that an ongoing Republican probe into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his work in Ukraine would amplify Russian disinformation. That probe is being led by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

In a statement, Johnson spokesman Austin Altenburg said the committee’s staff had already requested and received a briefing on Russian disinformation and Johnson had requested an additional briefing at the member level.

While Biden criticized Trump for not acting more aggressively against Russia, his pledge that his intelligence community would report “publicly and in a timely manner” on any foreign efforts to interfere in an American election also appeared to be a course correction of sorts to the approach of the Obama administration, which waited months after Russian hacks of Democratic email accounts in 2016 to officially attribute them to Moscow.

Officials did so only after a rigorous internal debate over what they should say. Even when the administration did issue its October 2016 statement blaming Russia for the hacks, it did not mention Putin by name nor an ongoing effort to determine whether the Kremlin’s election interference efforts were being co-ordinated with the Trump campaign.

Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump, said Monday she was “glad” Biden was speaking up. “It’s very clear that Russia succeeded,” she told MSNBC. “They believed that they were able to influence the minds and even the votes of Americans, so why would they stop?”

Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press

election

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

RCMP investigate possible drowning at Pigeon Lake: Man and woman found dead on shore

Bodies recovered from Pigeon Lake’s northeastern shores.

Red Deer Region Highland Dancing Association to participate in national dance-a-thon

Central Albertan dancers have missed performing during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the… Continue reading

Maskwacis teen charged in 10-year-old boy’s death

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

Still no mandatory masks in Red Deer

While a growing number of Alberta communities have made masks mandatory, the… Continue reading

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

Cast your votes for Best of Red Deer

The Advocate’s Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are back. Community… Continue reading

Quebec festivals organizers look to innovate as restrictions loosened

Montreal has been having its quietest summer in recent memory, as COVID-19… Continue reading

COVID-19 outbreaks over in federal prisons, staff preparing for ‘new normal’

COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada’s federal prisons have been declared over, and staff… Continue reading

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

OTTAWA — The federal government will match all individual donations from Canadians… Continue reading

Protests in Beirut amid public fury over massive blast

BEIRUT — Police fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators in Lebanon’s… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Biden risks alienating young Black voters after race remarks

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s controversial remarks about race this week risk alienating… Continue reading

Most Read