FBI Director Wray warns Russians actively influencing 2020 election

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing about ‘worldwide threats to the homeland’ in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 17, 2020.

Chip Somodevilla | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers Thursday that Russia is actively interfering in the upcoming U.S. presidential election by spreading misinformation about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Wray described Russian efforts as a “steady drumbeat of misinformation” that he said could undercut American voters’ confidence in the democratic process. 

“I think the intelligence community’s consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections,” Wray told the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, adding that the FBI found similarities in Russian behavior against the backdrop of the 2016 election. 

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow acted to undermine then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in order to help then-Republican nominee Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Trump and Russia deny that Moscow’s involvement affected the outcome in 2016. 

“We certainly have seen very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more the malign foreign influence side of things like social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals,” Wray said, adding that the Russians are particularly focused on smearing Biden because they view him as “kind of an anti-Russian establishment.”

The latest warning comes less than 50 days before Election Day, although voters have already begun voting early through mail and other means. On Thursday, Trump bristled at the mail-in ballot process on Twitter saying “the Nov. 3rd election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED.”

“Another election disaster yesterday. Stop Ballot Madness!,” Trump tweeted.

In August, the nation’s top U.S. counterintelligence official warned in a rare public statement that Russia, China and Iran were all trying to influence the Nov. 3 election through a slew of methods. 

“Foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in an Aug. 7 statement. 

“They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results,” the statement added.

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