FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that Russia has been “very active” in its efforts to influence US elections, with the primary goal being to “denigrate” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, Wray told lawmakers that Russia is primarily interfering through “malign foreign influence in an effort to hurt Biden’s campaign” – echoing the intelligence community’s public assessment on Moscow’s meddling efforts issued last month.
Wray’s comments come as President Donald Trump and several other top administration officials have recently attempted to play up the theory that China is meddling to get Biden elected, while downplaying well-founded reports that Russia is trying to help Trump win again, like it did in 2016.
Foreign election interference efforts differ from what was observed in 2016, when there was also an effort to target election infrastructure, Wray said. “We have not seen that second part yet this year or this cycle, but we certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020,” he added.
According to Wray, Russia is using social media, proxies, state media and online journals to sow “divisiveness and discord” and “primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment.”
Intelligence officials have said they have uncovered evidence that Russia is currently interfering in the election to hurt Biden’s campaign. Separately, some evidence has already emerged about Moscow’s efforts, including Facebook’s announcement earlier this month that a troll group that was part of Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election is trying to target Americans again.
But while the intelligence community has assessed that China and Iran prefer Trump to lose in November, officials have offered no indication, to date, that either country is acting on that preference in the same way as Russia, according to public statements issued by the intelligence community and sources familiar with the underlying evidence.
“We assess that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China,” the top US intelligence official on election security, Bill Evanina, said in an unprecedented public statement issued last month.