Biden, Lawmakers Warn Of Foreign Interference In Election

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Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 coordinated 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?”

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Funny that the former VP said that Vladimir Putin knows that he means what he says. I think the world believes that the former VP no longer remembers what he said

  2. “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.”

    Oh, I see. When it was a sitting Republican President of the US, these same sleazy democrats had no problem dragging on their Ukrainian witch hunt for years. They had no problem bringing every bitter enemy before Congress like Maria Yavanovitch, Fiona Hill, & the whistleblower himself, Lowlife Vindman, to name just a few. These same sleazy democrats refused to answer any questions regarding the corrupt Hunter Biden. Now that his old fart dad is running for POTUS, one is NOT allowed to ask questions and have the masked basement phantom vetted???

  3. as if America (especially under Obama) tried to influence elections in other countries. Wasn’t it discovered that Obama admin had channeled much money to help Herzog to defeat Bibi? I remember.

    So when Demented Joe is k’vetching about outside interference, remember it is the US who also does the same.

  4. Always keep in mind __ It’s not Biden, it’s his coolies/handlers that write his telepromted verbiage.
    You’re getting the Obama Gang should he somehow dodder in.

        • as soon as Hunter Biden runs for public office, his activities will become relevant. Now, how about your fearless leader turning over his tax returns like every other President in modern history. What is he hiding? Besides the obvious fact that he is nowhere close to being a billionaire (he has less than what his father gave him, adjusted for inflation) or that he gives nothing to charity or that he is controlled by his Russian lenders who own him?

          • So as long as Hunter isn’t running for public office, you’re saying he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Is that about the shape of it? You don’t think maybe his activities _might_ somehow have some relevance to his father’s campaign?

            And as for the tax returns, they’re none of your business, or of mine, or of anyone else. You know, if you’re going to cite precedent of what “every other President in modern history” has turned over, then how about Obama’s college transcripts? What has _he_ been hiding that you have no interest in, because he’s got the magic letter after his name that to you makes him a modern saint?

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