Moscow using ‘misinformation’ to discredit Biden, says FBI chief

Updated 18 Sep 2020

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FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia is interfering in the US presidential elections with a steady stream of misinformation aimed at Democrat Joe Biden (pictured above). — AFP/File
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia is interfering in the US presidential elections with a steady stream of misinformation aimed at Democrat Joe Biden (pictured above). — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday warned that Russia is interfering in the US presidential elections with a steady stream of misinformation aimed at Democrat Joe Biden as well as sapping Americans’ confidence in the election process, Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, told the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ Homeland Security committee on Wednesday.

Moscow is also attempting to undercut what it sees as an anti-Russian US establishment, Mr Wray added.

He said his biggest concern is a “steady drumbeat of misinformation” that he said he feared could undermine confidence in the result of the election.

Wray’s testimony follows an Aug 7 warning by the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre that Russia, China and Iran were all trying to interfere in the Nov 3 election.

Multiple reviews by intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia acted to boost now-President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and undermine his rival Hillary Clinton. Trump has long bristled at that finding, which Russia denies.

Trump suggests result can’t be accurate

President Donald Trump escalated his unfounded attacks on mail-in voting on Thursday, suggesting in a Twitter post that the result of the Nov 3 US presidential race could never be accurately determined and that would undermine any winner, including him.

Trump, lagging his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in public opinion polls, has continued to make unsubstantiated attacks on voting by mail as vulnerable to fraud as state officials embrace it as an alternative to in-person balloting during the coronavirus pandemic. Election experts who have studied decades of US elections say fraud is rare.

“Because of the new and unprecedented massive amount of unsolicited ballots which will be sent to voters, or wherever, this year, the Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED, which is what some want. Another election disaster yesterday. Stop Ballot Madness!” Trump said in a tweet.

Sixteen states require an excuse to vote absentee, such as illness or travel. The other 34 states allow any registered voter to request a mail ballot. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the latter system is prone to fraud, although Americans have long voted by mail.

One in four ballots in 2016 was cast by mail.

The Nov 3 election promises to be the largest test of voting by mail, and the two major parties are locked in numerous lawsuits that will shape how millions of Americans exercise their right to vote.

The Biden campaign responded with a statement it put out after a Trump attack on mail-in voting in July. “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in the statement.

Democratic voters are embracing mail-in ballots at rates well ahead of their Republican counterparts, according to data from recent state and local elections.

The trend has alarmed Republicans, more than two dozen Republican officials from six politically competitive states told Reuters last month.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2020