File photo: Biden and Trump Photograph:( Reuters )
In a nutshell, the statement put two of the biggest American adversaries on opposite sides of the election: Russia for Trump and China for Biden.
The US intelligence has assessed that Russia, China and Iran will all try to interfere in the 2020 presidential election with Beijing "preferring" an outcome where President Donald Trump is not reelected in November and Moscow working to "denigrate" former Vice President Joe Biden's White House bid.
In an unusual public statement, William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre, said the three countries were using online disinformation and other means to try to influence voters, stir up disorder and undermine American voters' confidence in the democratic process.
Evanina said in a statement on Friday: "We assess that China prefers that President Trump -- whom Beijing sees as unpredictable -- does not win reelection."
Evanina's assessment comes two days after the release of a new report from the State Department that accused Russia of conducting a sophisticated disinformation and propaganda campaign, which uses a variety of approaches including Kremlin-aligned news sites to promote their agenda.
In a nutshell, Evanina's statement put two of the biggest American adversaries on opposite sides of the election: Russia for Trump and China for Biden.
"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," Evanina added.
"We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment.' This is consistent with Moscow's public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration's policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia."
According to CNN, Evanina also stated that Iran is seeking to "undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country."
The statement from the top counterintelligence official is also the clearest the intelligence community has been in suggesting Russia prefers one candidate over the other in the 2020 race.
In response, Trump appeared reluctant to accept the intelligence community findings. He, when asked, said, "It could be. I mean it could be, very much."
"I think that the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because nobody's been tougher on Russia -- ever," Trump said, adding later, "the last thing that Russia wants, and China wants, and Iran wants is for Donald Trump to win."
Evanina used "denigrate" to denote what Russia wanted. It is the word the intelligence community used in its 2017 assessment citing Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" aimed at harming Hillary Clinton.
US intelligence officials presented information to lawmakers and presidential campaigns.
An official with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told CNN that there's "no particular rank or order by which the threat actors are listed" in Evanina's statement.
The Biden and Trump campaigns responded to the news of Evanina's warning by volleying attacks at one another.
The Biden campaign's foreign policy adviser, Tony Blinken, accused Trump of having "publically and repeatedly invited, emboldened, and even tried to coerce foreign interference in American elections."
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh claimed the administration has held Moscow accountable and is "tougher on Russia than any administration in history," also attacking Obama's former national security adviser Susan Rice, who is a potential running mate for Biden.
Many officials who oversee US election technology and outside security experts now worry less about hacking in the elections than about misinformation and logistics such as a shortage of poll workers and slowdowns at the US postal service.