An intelligence bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security indicates that Russia is attempting to challenge the integrity of the 2020 elections by supporting false claims in regards to the mail-in voting resulting in widespread fraud, assertions that have been repeatedly pushed by President Donald Trump, according to documents obtained by CNN.
“We assess that Russia is likely to continue amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail and shifting voting processes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public trust in the electoral process,” the bulletin, first reported by ABC News, reads.
This piece of news hit only a day after Attorney General Bill Barr condemned states for encouraging mail-in voting. He also downplayed Russia’s well-documented attempts to help Trump in presidential elections, including in this election cycle, and instead put the blame on China even with intelligence agencies finding that Beijing is actively not meddling in the election.
The revelation adds to the pile of evidence that Russia is again interfering in a US presidential election, and also clearly indicates Moscow is tailoring its messaging to amplify false narratives that benefit the Trump campaign.
Last month, the US intelligence community’s top election security official said in a statement Russia is working to “denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden’s White House bid, yet in the weeks since, Trump and senior members of his administration have attempted to cast the President as the victim of foreign interference by cherry-picking intelligence to suggest China is attempting to hurt his campaign.
Meanwhile, Trump has also been supported by his intelligence chief, John Ratcliffe, who curbed access of election security briefings to Congress prompting criticism from Democrats who say he is attempting to suppress information about Russian interference from the American public.
News of the DHS document prompted immediate criticism from the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff.
“The new bulletin from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis underscores two concerning facts: First, as the Intelligence Community confirmed last month, Russia is once again seeking to interfere in our elections and sow distrust in our democratic process. And second, among the range of measures it is pursuing, Russia is echoing destructive and false narratives around vote by mail that President Trump and his enablers, including Attorney General Barr, have been aggressively promoting,” Schiff said in a statement.
“This bulletin further demonstrates why the ODNI’s cancelation of in-person briefings on election security for Congress is so dangerous—Congress must be able to directly question and engage with the intelligence community professionals with the responsibility for protecting our elections from foreign interference,” he added.
A committee official told CNN that Schiff has already requested a briefing about another DHS bulletin that was withheld by DHS in July warning of a Russian plot to spread misinformation regarding Biden’s mental health and asked specific questions of the department as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into the potential politicization of intelligence agencies.
In a draft of the bulletin obtained by ABC News and confirmed by DHS titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” analysts said with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.” The bulletin, which was produced by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), also raised efforts by China and Iran to criticize Trump, ABC reported.
After news of that bulletin was published, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said his department was working to revise the intelligence report.
“The report that you reference was at the end of the day a very poorly written report,” Wolf said in a Fox News interview. “When I talked to career officials in I&A, in the office that produced the report, they also had questions about it. They’re hard at work on rewriting that report, putting it in some better context and I hope to see that report out soon.”
Barr Still Believes In The Voter Fraud Conspiracy
Asked what evidence he has to support this theory, Barr said he was “basing it on logic.”
Barr also diluted the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia is the only country actively interfering in the 2020 election.
“I accept that there is some preliminary activity that suggests that they might try again,” Barr said of Russia. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Russia tries something again of the same general genre before.”
The FBI is “fully aware” of the expectation that there will be an increase in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic — circumstances that have created a new environment with this election cycle, a senior official said.
“We have not seen, to date, a coordinated national voter fraud effort during a major election and it would be extraordinarily difficult to change a federal election outcome through this type of model alone, given the range of processes that we need to be affected or compromised by an adversary at the local level,” they added. The official also said the FBI stands ready to tackle any potential voter fraud that might occur.