US counterintelligence chief says foreign adversaries are exploiting Trump's lies to influence election
The top US intelligence official on election security says that foreign adversaries are exploiting lies by President Donald Trump in their campaigns to influence the 2020 election.Posted — Updated
Bill Evanina, the Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, agreed when asked by Hearst Television that foreign powers are using the numerous exaggerated and false claims Trump has made about mail-in voting, voting multiple times and 2020 being the most fraudulent election in history.
"If they see a reference made by the President of the United States, a prominent US Senator, a business person, someone who America looks at as a voice of reason, and they believe it suits their interests, they will amplify that by a thousand to make sure that the most amount of people see it," Evanina said.
Mail-in voting is a favorite target of Trump's, who has routinely spread false information on the way many Americans plan to vote during the pandemic.
Evanina made clear that he has not seen any intelligence that foreign countries are "manipulating or attempting to manipulate any mail by vote systems or processes." They are, however, using the issue as a wedge "to exacerbate these conversations we're having."
National security officials charged with securing the election have been evasive about the threat posed by Trump's regular spreading of disinformation, focusing instead on that same threat from overseas. But Evanina's comments appear to mark the first time an intelligence leader has publicly stated that the President's lies about the election are being used by America's enemies.
FBI director Christopher Wray provoked Trump's anger last month when he stated Russia is "very actively" working to "denigrate" Trump's opponent former Vice President Joe Biden. Wray was re-iterating the intelligence community's assessment that Russia is working against Biden, while China would rather see Trump not be re-elected.
Free speech, Evanina says, is both what makes the US great and its biggest vulnerability. Even conspiracy theories which, Evanina says, are "a symptom of having an awesome democracy."
Asked repeatedly about the truthfulness of what Trump has said, Evanina was evasive.
"The hard part we have in democracy is identifying truisms. You know who is the truth police, who is not the truth police. How is it are we able to say this person said that, this person is false?" Evanina asked. "It gets really complicated when we as Americans have to draw lines as to what's believable, not believable. And who determines what's true and what's not."
In the lengthy interview, Evanina repeatedly voiced his support for bipartisan congressional investigations, the intelligence agencies and institutions like DHS and the FBI. He said the Mueller report and the recent Senate Intelligence committee investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia role in the 2016 election were not hoaxes.
"They were great reports done by a lot of great people going back to 2017," Evanina said. "Again, I think everyone wants to juxtapose investigations and capabilities and statements against the President. And I just think that's probably not healthy for America to do that."
Evanina also said he's never been told to withhold intel or change findings and that he'd quit if that happened. "If I believed it to be not true or not worth the value, absolutely I would quit that day."
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