Russia sought to sway American voters toward Donald Trump and away from Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election by perpetrating another expansive online and social media influence campaign similar to the 2016 operation, a U.S. intelligence report concluded, recently declassified.
The Russians' disinformation campaign in 2020 aimed to denigrate the candidacy of President Biden and the Democratic Party, support former President Trump, undermine public confidence in the election process, and social interaction in the United States, the report says.
Russian President Vladimir Putin led the influence campaign, the report evaluates.
U.S. intelligence officials who compiled the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) report found no evidence that foreign adversaries, including Russia, attempted to disrupt the U.S. electoral infrastructure.
The report stated that in 2016 we did not see Russian cyber efforts continue to gain access to the electoral framework.
Investigators found that there is no indication that any foreign actor during the U.S. elections in 2020 attempted to interfere with the technical aspect of the polls, including voter registration, ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting of votes results, he says.
In other words, the researchers isolated numerous examples of "electoral influence" efforts. Still, they did not discern that "electoral interference" took place.
The report on electoral effect states that open and covert efforts by foreign governments and their agents directly or indirectly to influence American elections," affecting some candidates, political parties, voters and their preferences, or reducing their confidence in political processes.
Electoral interference is defined as a "subset" of electoral influence whereby an evil actor addresses "the technical aspects of the election, including voter registration, the casting, counting of votes, or reporting results.
The ODNI report released publicly on Tuesday includes a statement from the Department of Homeland Security the day after the election that the department found no tampering with any malicious actors' physical electoral process.
After millions of Americans have voted, we have no evidence that no anti-foreigner has prevented us from voting or changing the number of votes. The DHS said after the election day on 4th November.
Russia is not alone
According to the report, Russia was not the only adversary of the United States trying to influence the outcome of the 2020 elections.
Iran, Hezbollah, Cuba, and Venezuela stepped up their own efforts to influence the elections, mostly away from Trump.
According to the report, Iran "carried out a covert, multi-front campaign of influence" to undermine Trump's re-election prospects. But, the report notes, the U.S. rival in the Middle East did so "without directly promoting its rivals," such as Biden.
Iranian Ayatollah Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei authorized the influence campaign, which was carried out by the country's military and intelligence services, according to the ODNI report.
While ODNI investigators concluded that no foreign adversary attempted to tamper with or hack into any technical aspects of the 2020 voting and reporting process, Russia and Iran spread false or erode public confidence in election processes and results in false or inflated claims about the alleged agreements of voting systems.
China stays out of this.
A foreign adversary of the United States that was notably sidelined from operations to tilt the U.S. elections to its will was China, which did not deploy either the influence efforts or the more sinister technical interference tactics used by other countries.
China has tried to make a steady effort in its relations with the United States. China did not find any election results so profitable that China is at the risk of being meddling, and assessed that its traditional tools of influence - mainly targeted economic measures and lobbying - would be sufficient to meet the goal of shaping the U.S. and Chinese policy regardless of the winner, states the ODNI report.
However, the cyber division's National Intelligence Officer noted that China "took some steps to try to undermine the re-election of former President Trump."