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What new intelligence warning says about foreign election interference

A top U.S. intelligence official released a statement Friday that details the intelligence community’s current assessment of possible interference in the November elections. William Evanina raised concerns “about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia and Iran.” Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss the political reaction to the warning.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, amid this impasse over coronavirus relief, there were also some new developments today on another major issue, the security of this November's elections.

    A top U.S. intelligence official, William Evanina, released a statement that details the intelligence community's current assessment of potential foreign interference.

    Evanina raised concern about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia and Iran. On Chinese influence, he said intelligence agencies "assess that China prefers that President Trump, whom Beijing sees as unpredictable, does not win reelection," and that "Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden."

    In a follow-up statement, the two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee — that's Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Mark Warner — said that they — quote — "encourage political leaders on all sides to refrain from weaponizing intelligence matters for political gain."

    So, that's a lot to swallow late this afternoon.

    But, Lisa, let me pick up with that.

    What do we see in the statement from the intelligence community that adds to what we already knew about the possibility of foreign interference in our election?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Talking to Hill sources, they point out that Evanina is not seen as political, but as someone who is almost an American patriot, a longtime civil servant.

    They also say this, Judy. Democrats say there's a difference between what China is doing and what Russia is doing, that Russia is acting on their capabilities more than China, Russia acting to take down Vice President Biden.

    One other note, Judy, though, both parties are worried that the American public is not ready for what may be ahead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, in terms of the White House, what are they saying about this? Are they saying that they're — they plan to take any particular steps to address it?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House, today, officials tell me, are really focused on making sure that our elections are safe. They say they're not going to tolerate any sort of foreign interference and that they're working with all 50 states, as well as social media companies, to keep the election safe.

    That said, President Trump has been loath to talk about election interference, first in 2016, when the intelligence community said that Russia was interfering on his behalf, and now in 2021, when they say Russia is doing the same thing.

    The president instead has been focused on mail-in voting and saying that there's widespread fraud there, even though there is no evidence of that. So, Democrats and critics of the president say he's not focused enough on this issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    Well, it certainly has raised a lot of questions. And I know both of you are going to continue to follow that, as well as these — the path forward on these negotiations over COVID relief.

    Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor. Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sure thing.

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