Russia is Trying to ‘Denigrate’ Biden while China Prefers ‘Unpredictable’ Trump Not Be Reelected

Russia is “using a range of measures” to interfere in the 2020 election and has enlisted a pro-Russian lawmaker from Ukraine — who has met with President Trump’s personal lawyer — “to undermine former vice president [Joe] Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” a top U.S. intelligence official said in a statement Friday as quoted by The Washington Post.

The remarks by William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, were some of the most detailed to date about foreign interference in the presidential race and come after earlier criticism from Democratic lawmakers that Evanina had not shared with the public some of the alarming intelligence he gave them in classified briefings.

Evanina also said that the government of China does not want Trump to win reelection in November, seeing the incumbent as “unpredictable.” Evanina described China’s efforts to date as largely rhetorical and aimed at shaping policy and criticizing the Trump administration for actions Beijing sees as harmful to its long-term strategic interests.

By contrast, Evanina described Russia as actively engaged in efforts that are reminiscent of the Kremlin’s attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

“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’,” Evanina said.

He noted that a Ukrainian lawmaker who has been in contact with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is part of a Russian disinformation effort.

“Pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine” Biden and Democrats, Evanina said.

Derkach met in December with Giuliani as part of an effort by Trump’s allies to obtain damaging information about Biden in Ukraine, The Washington Post has reported. Giuliani also hosted Derkach on his podcast in February and has said the two have spoken repeatedly about Ukraine and Biden, terming the Ukrainian lawmaker “very helpful.”

Giuliani has said that he was aware there were recordings of Biden speaking to Ukrainians and that he sought to obtain them in 2019, while he was working to locate information helpful to Trump. “We would have loved to get the recordings, but we never did,” Giuliani previously told The Post.

Giuliani has noted that Derkach gave him other information that Giuliani thought could connect Biden to “corruption in Ukraine.” Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Russia’s current efforts against Biden can be traced back to his time in the White House, Evanina said, noting that the desire to wound his candidacy was “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.”

In addition to the disinformation campaign by Derkach, Evanina said, “some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”

Asked during a news conference Friday if he believed the intelligence assessment, Trump said that “it could be,” before directly contradicting part of the finding by saying, “The last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump, because nobody’s been tougher on Russia than I have, ever.”

Some U.S. officials criticized Evanina for appearing to equate the efforts of China and Russia when the Kremlin was interfering much more directly. In his statement, China is listed first, followed by Russia and then Iran, which he described as motivated to interfere in the election but not yet taking any actions.

“Between China and Russia, only one of those two is trying to actively influence the outcome of the 2020 election, full stop,” said a senior U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

Another U.S. official said China sees the United States as an adversary but takes a longer-term approach that, so far, doesn’t include the kinds of short-term efforts Russia is using to damage Biden.

Evanina also portrayed China as taking a longer view of its relationship with the United States but angered by recent Trump administration actions that have elevated tensions to historic levels, including the President’s decision to ban the popular social media app TikTok and efforts to counter China’s presence in the global market for 5G data networks.

“Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current Administration’s covid-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate, and actions on other issues,” Evanina said.

The Trump and Biden campaigns embraced Evanina’s statement as a vindication of their own positions and an indictment of the other’s misdeeds.

“Donald Trump has publicly and repeatedly invited, emboldened, and even tried to coerce foreign interference in American elections,” Tony Blinken, a senior Biden campaign adviser, said in a statement. “Joe Biden, on the other hand, has led the fight against foreign interference for years, and has refused to accept any foreign materials intended to help him in this election — something that Donald Trump and his campaign have repeatedly failed to do.”

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications manager, said, “If anyone should face questions about foreign interference in 2020, it’s Joe Biden’s campaign. We don’t need or want foreign interference, and President Trump will beat Joe Biden fair and square.”

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