US: Despite threats, foreign hackers didn’t disrupt election

U.S.

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — U.S. officials found no evidence that foreign actors changed votes or otherwise disrupted the voting process in last November’s presidential election, according to government reports Tuesday affirming the integrity of the contest won by President Joe Biden.

But U.S. officials say they did track a “broader array” of foreign countries who took steps to influence the election than in past cycles.

Russia’s government tried to seed the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign with “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” against then-candidate Joe Biden through allies of former President Trump and his administration, according to an assessment made in a 15-page report into election interference published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It underscores allegations that Trump’s allies were playing into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run up to the Nov. 3 election.

U.S. intelligence agencies found other attempts to sway voters, including a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran intended to undercut Trump’s support. The report also punctures a counter-narrative pushed by Trump’s allies that China was interfering on Biden’s behalf, concluding that Beijing “did not deploy interference efforts.”

“China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught,” the report said.

U.S. officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to influence the election, although “in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran.”

U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded that Russia also interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump’s candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The new report said Putin knew of and “probably directed” the election interference efforts. As an example, Putin “had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach,” a Ukrainian lawmaker who played a prominent role in the effort and has ties to Russian intelligence, the report said.

“We assess Russian leaders preferred that former President Trump win re-election despite perceiving some of his administration’s policies as anti-Russia. We have high confidence in this assessment,” the report stated.

A key role was also played by a second man with Russian intelligence ties, Konstantin Kilimnik, according to the report. Kilimnik and Derkach met with and gave materials to Trump-linked people to push for formal investigations, and Derkach released four audio recordings to try to implicated Biden in corruption, it said.

That refers to conversations that figures in the United States cited as evidence that Biden tried to protect his son Hunter from a probe in Ukraine.

Kilimnik was an associate of Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. Trump last year pardoned Manafort for a criminal conviction that stemmed from Mueller’s investigation.

Russian agents also tried to “phish” employees of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, “likely in an attempt to gather information related to President Biden’s family,” it said. Hunter Biden had served on Burisma’s board.

As in the 2016 election, the Russian so-called troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency pushed disparaging stories on social media about Biden and Democrats and complained about censorship by the tech companies, the report said. It also sought to exacerbate U.S. divisions on racial justice issues, the report said.

This story is developing. Check back for updates

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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