National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien warned on Thursday that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was “trying to elect” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and that they have the most powerful and sophisticated tools to do it.
PBS News host Judy Woodruff asked O’Brien about a recent report from the U.S. Intelligence Community that concluded that China and Iran were pushing for Biden while Russia was pushing for President Donald Trump.
“Final question, different subject, Ambassador O’Brien, and that has to do with the intelligence community report late last week that the Chinese and the Iranians are working in their own way to support Joe Biden in this presidential campaign,” Woodruff said. “But the Russians, who have a much more sophisticated interference campaign under way, are working again to support President Trump.”
“So, my question is, what is the administration doing to counter the Russians?” she asked.
Woodruff did not ask about China or Iran’s efforts to push Biden.
“Well, it’s not just countering the Russians. It’s countering any state or organization that wants to disrupt our elections,” O’Brien responded. “Our — the free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. They’re what make this country a great country. And we — we’re not going to tolerate any outside country, whether it’s China on behalf of Joe Biden — and, by the way, I dispute — the one thing I would dispute, I think the Chinese have the most sophisticated global influence programs and strategies and abilities and capabilities in the world.”
“But whether it’s the Chinese, who are trying to elect Joe Biden, or the Russians, who are denigrating Joe Biden, or the Iranians or the Venezuelans or Cubans or any other country, they have to stay out of our elections,” O’Brien continued. “We’ve hardened our election infrastructure. We’re working with our secretaries of state across all 50 states and the U.S. territories that will be voting for president. We’re putting unprecedented amounts of money in to make sure that they’re not vulnerable, our election systems aren’t vulnerable to cyberattack.”
“And so this is something we’re taking very seriously. We’re taking it very seriously in my shop at the NSC. President Trump is taking it very seriously,” O’Brien concluded. “And, look, there is zero place in an American election for foreign powers, whatever their — whatever they want to do or whatever they — however they want to influence this country. There’s no place for it.”
The office of the Director of National Intelligence released the following report on the top election threats facing the United States for the upcoming 2020 elections:
CHINA – 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 interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China. Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current Administration’s COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues. For example, it has harshly criticized the Administration’s statements and actions on Hong Kong, TikTok, the legal status of the South China Sea, and China’s efforts to dominate the 5G market. Beijing recognizes that all of these efforts might affect the presidential race.
RUSSIA – 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.” 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. For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party. Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.
IRAN – We assess that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content. Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, 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.
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