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With about six weeks remaining until Election Day, the security of elections and mail-in ballots were part of an ongoing, contentious debate Thursday. President Trump kept up his continued, unfounded attacks on mail-in voting as a threat to the election, while FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that ongoing Russian disinformation campaigns are the real danger. William Brangham reports.
With less than seven weeks until Election Day, the question of how Americans will vote has grown even more contentious.
The security of elections and mail-in ballots was once again at the top of mind for many officials in Washington today.
Our William Brangham begins our coverage.
The day started with another inaccurate tweet from President Trump about mail-in voting.
The president has repeatedly made false statements about who is being sent mail-in ballots and what mail-in voting could mean for the election.
Today, he asserted falsely that — quote — "The November 3 election result may never be accurately determined" — unquote.
On Capitol Hill today, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that proven election meddling is coming from Russia. The Russians aren't targeting election infrastructure, Wray said, but stirring up division.
Well, we certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more the malign foreign influence side of things, social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals, et cetera, an effort to both sow divisiveness and discord, and — and I think the intelligence community has assessed this — to — primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden.
Wray's testimony comes a week after a Department of Homeland Security whistle-blower alleged he was told to tamp down intelligence relating to Russian interference.
But, last night, President Trump downplayed the risk of foreign influence, instead saying — again, with no evidence behind his statement — that Democratic governors mailing out ballots would be the gravest threat come November.
President Donald Trump:
Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots.
To me, that's a much bigger threat than foreign countries, because much of the stuff coming out about foreign countries turned out to be untrue.
Today, in an op-ed in The New York Times, President Trump's former hand-picked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned of the stakes, writing: "The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election's results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture."
Coats went on to offer a potential solution, calling on Congress to create a bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. He said the key goal should be reassuring the American people that their votes will count.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
There were two court rulings today bearing on all of this. A federal judge in Washington state issued a nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes that have slowed mail service. He ruled that voters could be disenfranchised.
And the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ordered that deadlines for mail-in voting be eased and that more ballot collection sites be set up.
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William Brangham is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C. He joined the flagship PBS program in 2015, after spending two years with PBS NewsHour Weekend in New York City.
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