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Congressional Democrats have asked for the FBI to brief legislators on potential attempts by foreign governments to interfere with the 2020 US election in November.
According to an unnamed source speaking with Politico, the Democrats’ desire for a briefing is spurred in part by their fears that Russia will engage in a disinformation campaign to try to undermine the party’s presumptive presidential candidate, Joe Biden.
In a letter directed to FBI Director Chris Wray, the Democrats did not specify precisely what they feared Russia or other foreign entities might attempt, but did include fears that groups opposed to Mr Biden’s campaign were feeding information to Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, who heads the investigation into Mr Biden and his son, Hunter’s, involvement in an Ukranian energy company, the source claimed.
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“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote.
The letter was also signed by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff and the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner.
Both parties have raised concerns that foreign actors will attempt to influence the upcoming election, though Mr Johnson claims the Democrats’ fears that his investigation has been influenced by disinformation is misplaced.
“They’re simply wrong,” Mr Johnson said. “And Schiff is the last person to talk.”
An aide to Mr Johnson told Politico that the lawmaker had also requested a briefing with the FBI on foreign interference issues, but that the Democrats in the Senate were holding up the briefing.
“Committee staff has already requested and received a staff briefing on this issue, and Chairman Johnson has requested an additional briefing at the member level,” the aide said. “That briefing has not occurred in part because the agencies requested additional information from minority staff, which has not followed on these requests since mid-May.”
On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump has already sounded the alarm regarding foreign election interference.
In June, Mr Trump baselessly claimed that foreign countries were going to interfere in the election through mail-in voting. A month prior, the president was convinced – incorrectly – that all foreign countries had to do to interfere was print their own ballots and send them to the US.
“They’ll even be printing them. They’ll use the same paper, the same machines, and they’ll be printing ballots illegally. And they’ll be sending them in by the hundreds of thousands, and nobody’s going to know the difference,” Mr Trump said.
Election experts claim the president’s fears are unfounded.
According to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Mr Trump actually courted foreign election interference during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019.
Mr Bolton included an anecdote in his recently released book, “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir,” in which Mr Trump allegedly asked Mr Xi to help him win.
“He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Mr Bolton wrote. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”
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