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Russia and Iran tried to interfere with 2020 election, U.S. intelligence agencies say

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) greets Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (L) during their meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palace on March 28, 2017 in Moscow, Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

Russia and Iran both carried out operations to try to interfere in the 2020 presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, according to a U.S. intelligence report released Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US,” the report said.

Iran, meanwhile, “carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump’s reelection prospects–though without directly promoting his rivals–undermine public confidence in the electoral process and US institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the US,” according to the report.

But intelligence experts also found that China, which was previously thought to be expanding its U.S. influence efforts, ultimately did not deploy operations to affect the outcome of the Trump-Biden election.

Those assessments from the U.S. intelligence community, each of which were delivered with “high confidence,” came in a declassified report released through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The investigation was carried out by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA.

Tehran and Moscow have previously denied any involvement in attempting to influence U.S. elections.

The report also found that, unlike in the previous presidential election cycle, there were no indications that foreign actors attempted to alter voter registration, ballots or vote tabulation in the 2020 U.S. elections.

“We assess that it would be difficult for a foreign actor to manipulate election processes at scale without detection by intelligence collection on the actors themselves, through physical and cybersecurity monitoring around voting systems across the country, or in post-election audits,” the authors of the intelligence report wrote.

In a statement, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., stressed that the report shows Russia remains the biggest threat to U.S. elections.

While China and Iran also “took specific steps related to U.S. elections,” Schiff said, they were at “a far less significant or systematic level than those undertaken by Russia.”

“We must be clear and direct with the American people that different countries have differing intents and capabilities, and are not equal threats to our free and fair elections,” Schiff said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said that while the U.S. has strengthened its defenses against foreign interference, “the problem of foreign actors trying to influence the American electorate is not going away and, given the current partisan divides in this country, may find fertile ground in which to grow in the future.”

In addition to Iran and Russia, the investigation found that Cuba, Venezuela and Lebanese Hezbollah also worked to influence the election, though on a smaller scale.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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