Russia is seeking “to undermine public trust in the electoral process” by spreading false claims that mail-in-ballots are riddled with fraud and susceptible to manipulation, according to a new intelligence bulletin by the Department of Homeland Security.
Many of the claims made by Russian sources are identical to repeated, unsupported public statements aired by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr, who have said that mailed ballots aren’t trustworthy while warning of the potential for rampant fraud in November’s elections.
Homeland Security’s intelligence office has assessed that Russian actors “are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure, and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in Democratic institutions and election outcomes,” the bulletin states. Russia spreads these claims through a network of state-controlled media, proxy websites and social media trolls, it adds.
The document doesn’t identify any of those media sources by name. But current and former officials who have seen it said the assessment is based in part on classified intelligence about the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2020 elections, in a repeat of its operations four years ago, which intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded were designed to help Trump win.
The intelligence on Russian efforts to undermine voting-by-mail has been assessed as credible and was deemed important enough to share in an unclassified form on Thursday with state and local officials so that they can take steps to protect elections from manipulation, the current and former officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be shared publicly.