Foreign interference in the 2020 United States elections
Foreign interference in the 2020 United States elections has become a matter of concern at the highest level of national security as well as in the computer and social media industries.
In his Congressional testimony, Robert Mueller stated that "many more countries" have developed disinformation campaigns based partly on the Russian model. During a hearing in the United States House of Representatives concerning the contents of the Mueller Report, in which Robert Mueller presented the results of his nearly two-year-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, Mueller said that the Russians continue to interfere in U.S. elections "as we sit here". In his Congressional testimony, Mueller stated that "many more countries" have developed disinformation campaigns based partly on the Russian model. Between January and late July 2017, Twitter had identified and shut down over 7,000 phony accounts created by Iranian influence operations. Shortly thereafter, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the first volume of a bipartisan report on Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, a report that included recommendations for securing the 2020 elections. The second volume of that report noted, based on social-media data from October 2018, that "Russian disinformation efforts may be focused on gathering information and data points in support of an active measures campaign targeted at the 2020 U.S. presidental election."
U.S. officials have accused Russia, China and Iran of trying to influence the 2020 elections. According to Christopher A. Wray, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Russia is attempting to interfere with the 2020 United States elections. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in July 2019, Wray stated, "We are very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020." Dan Coats, the former Director of National Intelligence, believes that Russia and China will both attempt to influence the elections.
Various disinformation campaigns on social media have targeted the Democratic Party candidates running in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries. This has prompted considerable concern regarding the ability of social media companies to cope with disinformation and manipulation. By August 2019, Facebook and Twitter had banned advertisements that use misinformation to attempt the suppression of voter turnout. Microsoft developed open source software called ElectionGuard to help safeguard the 2020 elections. In mid-July 2019, Microsoft announced that it had, over the prior year, "notified nearly 10,000 customers they've been targeted or compromised by nation-state attacks". Based on attacks that had targeted political organizations, and on experience from 2016 and 2018, Microsoft anticipated "attacks targeting U.S. election systems, political campaigns or NGOs that work closely with campaigns". Of the "nation-state attacks" that had originated from Russia, Microsoft claimed that they followed the "same pattern of engagement" as Russian operations in 2016 and 2018. On October 4, 2019, Microsoft announced that "Phosphorus", a group of hackers linked to the Iranian government, had attempted to compromise e-mail accounts belonging to journalists, prominent Iranian expatriates, U.S. government officials and the campaign of a U.S. presidential candidate. While Microsoft did not disclose which campaign had been the target of the cyber attack, unnamed sources informed Reuters that it had been that of Donald Trump.
Dan Coats appointed Shelby Pierson as the U.S. election security czar in July 2019, creating a new position in a move seen as an acknowledgment that foreign influence operations against U.S. elections will be ongoing indefinitely. Election-security task forces established before the 2018 midterm elections at the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command have been expanded and "made permanent". The Department of Homeland Security indicated that the threat of ransomware attacks upon voter registration databases was a particular concern.
Prior to resigning as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen attempted to organize a meeting of the U.S. Cabinet to discuss how to address potential foreign interference in the 2020 elections. Mick Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff, reportedly warned her to keep the subject away from Trump, who views the discussion as questioning the legitimacy of his victory in 2016. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has blocked various bills intended to improve election security from being considered, including some measures that have had bipartisan support. However, various states have implemented changes, such as paper ballots. Florida has expanded its paper-ballot backup system since 2016, but experts warn that its voting systems are still vulnerable to manipulation, a particular concern being the electronic poll books that store lists of registered voters. Democratic members of Congress have cited the lack of effort to secure U.S. elections against foreign interference, particularly from Russia, as among grounds to begin an impeachment inquiry.
On September 30, 2019, the United States issued economic sanctions against seven Russians affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, an organization that manipulates social media for misinformation purposes. The sanctions were described as a warning against foreign interference in United States elections.
Presidency of Donald TrumpEdit
In a June 2019 interview with George Stephanopoulos, President Donald Trump said that he would accept information from other nations about his opponents in the 2020 United States presidential election.
According to reporting by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times, Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani repeatedly pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, leading to the ongoing[update] Trump–Ukraine scandal. Biden is a potentially strong Trump challenger in the 2020 presidential election. The purpose of the requested investigation was alleged to be to damage Biden's election campaign for president. Reports suggested that Trump threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless they investigate Biden. The controversy triggered the commencement of the formal process of impeachment inquiries against Trump on September 24, with House speaker Nancy Pelosi directing six House committee chairmen to proceed "under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry".
On October 3, 2019, Trump said that "China should start an investigation" into presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Moments before, while discussing negotiations on a possible agreement in the ongoing China–United States trade war, he said that "if they [China] don't do what we want, we have tremendous power." Chair of the Federal Election Commission Ellen Weintraub then retweeted a June statement explaining that "it is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election".
As of early October 2019, there is evidence President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, as well as Trump's personal attorney Giuliani have solicited help from Ukraine, Australia, Italy, Britain, and China for assistance in discrediting Trump's political opponents.
- Impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump
- Cold War II
- Cyberwarfare and Iran
- Democratic National Committee cyber attacks
- Foreign electoral intervention
- Presidency of Donald Trump
- Russian espionage in the United States
- Russian interference in the 2018 United States elections
- Social media in the 2016 United States presidential election
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2017)
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2018)
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2019)
- Timeline of post-election transition following Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
- Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
- 1996 United States campaign finance controversy
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- Tucker, Eric; Jalonick, Mary Clare; Balsamo, Michael (July 25, 2019). "Mueller rejects Trump's claims of exoneration, 'witch hunt'". The Washington Post.
And [Mueller] said of the interference by Russians and others: "They are doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign."
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- Sanger, David E.; Edmondson, Catie (July 25, 2019). "Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds". The New York Times.
But while the bipartisan report's warning that the United States remains vulnerable in the next election is clear, its findings were so heavily redacted at the insistence of American intelligence agencies that even some key recommendations for 2020 were blacked out.
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Russia's social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians. Moscow may employ additional influence toolkits—such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations, or manipulating data—in a more targeted fashion to influence US policy, actions, and elections.
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Facebook and Twitter say they're taking additional precautions this week after analysis found debates were a key target for Russian actors seeking to sow discord on social media ahead of the 2016 election. The companies are under immense public pressure to avoid a repeat in 2020 after they say they were caught off guard by the foreign influence operations in 2016.
- O'Kane, Caitlin (May 31, 2019). "Russian trolls fueled anti-vaccination debate in U.S. by spreading misinformation on Twitter, study finds". CBS News. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
Facebook also said it would crack down on the spread of vaccine misinformation by de-prioritizing medical myths across the platform ... however, misinformation about vaccines is not the only threat, as Russia is focusing on spreading misinformation around health care issues ahead of the 2020 election.
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In fact, some GOP senators have joined with Democrats to co-sponsor legislation designed to shore up voting machines and make it harder for foreign intelligence operatives to hack, leak and manipulate social media the way the Russians did in 2016. But those bills are going nowhere — because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not allowed a vote on any of them.
- Laslo, Matt (July 31, 2019). "Russia Is Going To Up Its Game For The 2020 Elections". Wired. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI? TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, I don't, there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, "We have information on your opponent." Oh, I think I'd want to hear it. STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections? TRUMP: It's not an interference, they have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, that they come up with oppo research. Oh, let's call the FBI. The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that's the way it is. It's called oppo research. STEPHANOPOULOS: Surprising. Thank you. TRUMP: Thank you. Okay. Fine.
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