US Election Officials Receive Warning About China, Russia

Intelligence advisory says nations are pursuing different strategies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 3, 2022 5:55 PM CDT
US Election Officials Receive Warning About China, Russia
Kathie Hoekstra arrives to vote Sept. 26 in Alexandria, Va.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Federal officials are warning ahead of the November midterms that Russia is working to amplify doubts about the integrity of US elections, while China is interested in undermining American politicians it sees as threats to Beijing's interests. An unclassified intelligence advisory, newly obtained by the AP, says China probably is seeking to influence select races to "hinder candidates perceived to be particularly adversarial to Beijing." In the advisory, sent to state and local officials in mid-September, intelligence officials said they believe Beijing sees a lower risk in meddling in the midterms versus a presidential election.

While officials said they've not identified any credible threats to election infrastructure in the US, per the AP, the latest intelligence warning comes during the peak of a midterm campaign in which a rising number of candidates and voters openly express a lack of confidence in the nation's democratic processes. Foreign countries have long sought to sway public opinion in America, perhaps most notably in a covert Russian campaign that used social media to sow discord on hot-button social issues ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The US government has been on high alert since.

Russia is amplifying divisive topics already circulating on the internet—including doubts about the integrity of American elections—but not creating its own content, said a senior FBI official who briefed reporters Monday. Overall, the official said, China's efforts are focused on shaping policy perspectives, including at the state and local level, rather than on electoral outcomes. Still, China appears to be concentrating on a "subset of candidates" in the US it sees as opposed to its policy interests, the official explained. The briefing Monday came weeks after DHS distributed an advisory that described China’s approach during this midterm as different from the 2020 election, when the intelligence community assessed that China considered but did not deploy efforts to influence the presidential election.

(More midterm elections stories.)

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