American intelligence officials issued a public warning on Friday that China was “expanding its influence efforts” in the United States ahead of the presidential election, along with Russia and Iran, but Democrats briefed on the matter said the threat was far more urgent than what the administration described.
The warning came from William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, in a statement 100 days before Americans go to the polls. “We’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran — although other nation-states and nonstate actors could also do harm to our electoral process,” the statement said….
Mr. Schiff, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday on MSNBC that he had been “urging Bill Evanina and others in the intelligence community to level with the American people about what’s going on.” He said the warning gave “a false sense of equivalence between what Russia is doing, what China is doing, what Iran is doing.”
Mr. Schiff and the other three authors of the letter have been briefed extensively on the intelligence, and thus are prohibited from violating classification rules by describing what they have seen.
But Mr. Schiff, a frequent target of harsh criticism from Mr. Trump because he was the Democrats’ manager in the impeachment trial in the Senate, added, “I think that our adversaries, in particular the Russians, are going to amplify the false messages that the president is putting out about, ‘Well, you can’t trust absentee ballots,’ even though that’s how the president votes.”
Some intelligence officials expressed surprise at the lawmakers’ letter and insisted they were not trying to play down the threat of interference from Moscow or signal that China was a greater challenge. They said Mr. Evanina’s statement was meant to be the beginning of a series of public statements, according to an official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.