Efforts by foreign governments to target 2022 US midterm elections This appears to have increased compared to the 2018 election, according to a declassified intelligence assessment released Monday, with the participation of a “diverse and growing group of foreign actors.”
There is no known order from a foreign leader to “undertake a comprehensive, whole-of-government influence campaign” like this. Russia made in 2016, according to the report. But the assessment finds that China, Russia, Iran and Cuba all attempted to interfere in the 2022 legislative elections.
The intelligence community believes with high confidence that China “tacitly approved efforts to attempt to influence a handful of midterm elections involving members of both U.S. political parties” – likely as part of a broad series of directives from Chinese Communist Party leaders since 2020 aimed at “stepping up efforts.” efforts to influence U.S. policy and public opinion in favor of China.
China has intensified its efforts to increase socio-political divisions, according to the assessment, but has always focused more on its efforts to support or weaken a small number of specific candidates depending on whether Beijing perceived their political positions to be in his favour. Party leaders “repeatedly asked officials to focus on Congress because Beijing is convinced that Congress is the venue for anti-China activities,” according to the report.
Yet, “Beijing almost certainly viewed the US midterm elections as an opportunity to portray the US democratic model as chaotic, ineffective and unrepresentative, and messages frequently directed (People’s Republic of China) to highlight US divisions on social issues, such as abortion and abortion. gun control.”
The conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that China has been more active in electoral influence activities is consistent with reports from technology companies. Suspected Chinese agents have used images created by artificial intelligence to imitate American voters online and provoke discussion on controversial political issues. Microsoft analysts warned in September.
Chinese officials likely had more freedom to conduct influence operations because they felt they were “under less scrutiny in the midterms” and the risk of U.S. retaliation was lower than in 2020, the report said. American intelligence services.
Russia, for its part, sought “to denigrate the Democratic Party ahead of the midterm elections and undermine confidence in the elections, which is very likely to undermine American support for Ukraine,” said the intelligence community, also with great confidence.
The intelligence community found that the Kremlin “conducted extensive research and analysis among the American public,” identifying key demographics, narratives and platforms that it believed would be effective in amplifying Russia’s message. Among those targeted audiences were “U.S. voters who they believed were more supportive of Russia’s emphasis on ‘traditional values,'” according to the assessment, which describes the results as one of the “highest reporting explicit to date on Russia’s influence operations focused on the United States. .”
The assessment also confirms that Russian military officials have proposed delay the Russian withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Kherson until the day after the 2022 midterm elections “to avoid giving a designated U.S. political party a perceived victory before the election.”
Russian actors also generally sought to weaken trust in Western democratic institutions, according to the assessment, by “(casting) criticism on the integrity of the midterm elections, including by claiming that voting software was vulnerable , that Americans expected cheating to compromise the midterm elections, and Democrats were stealing the election.
The assessment also details Iran’s influence activities during the midterms, revealing that Tehran sought to exploit perceived social divisions and undermine trust in US democratic institutions – but that its efforts were constrained by competing priorities , notably the need to manage internal unrest.
Generally speaking, intelligence officials found, foreign actors have been reluctant to undertake technically difficult efforts to change literal votes and have instead sought to influence U.S. elections by harming public perceptions of the integrity of their results.
The intelligence community has also observed that other countries – including Cuba – have engaged in more limited efforts to support or weaken specific candidates, apparently based on the candidate’s desire to promote policies aligned with that candidate’s interests. country.
The evaluation did not study the impact that influence campaigns might have had on the outcome of the 2022 elections.
CNN’s Sean Lyngaas contributed to this report.