The closed-door House briefing was led by the US intelligence community’s top election official, Bill Evanina, along with also also senior intelligence officials who specialize in election security. Officials dismissed the possibility of foreign powers being able to interfere on a mass scale to produce along with also also send fake ballots to voters along with also also election authorities, a source said.
The issue of forged ballots only came up when a lawmaker asked about This specific, a source in attendance told CNN. Evanina didn’t raise any alarms about of which possibility, the source said.
The briefing highlighted the regular clash of views on election security between Trump along with also also the administration’s top officials charged with keeping the November vote secure, both in public along with also also in classified briefings.
For months, those officials have routinely warned of which the most serious foreign threats are hacking of election along with also also campaign infrastructure, along with disinformation campaigns, largely via China, Russia along with also also Iran. The issue of fake ballots is actually one of which they don’t raise, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing briefings.
On Friday at the White House, Trump specifically claimed of which foreign countries will be able to forge ballots.
“This specific is actually going to be the greatest election disaster in history,” Trump said.
“along with also also by the way you guys like to talk about Russia along with also also China along with also also some other places, they’ll be able to forge ballots, they’ll forge up, they’ll do whatever they have to do,” he said.
Laying groundwork for foreign disinformation
The President is actually so vocal in his distrust of voting by mail of which there are concerns among intelligence along with also also law enforcement officials of which he is actually laying the groundwork for the exact sort of foreign disinformation campaigns they warn about.
“They can’t physically do anything about (mail-in ballots) although (they can) create social media narratives to create levels of doubt along with also also play into the debate,” a law enforcement official said. “We are alert for the fact they may take doubts about mail-in ballots along with also also exploit of which online.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber arm, the Cybersecurity along with also also Infrastructure Security Agency, released a brand new assessment on mail-in voting Friday afternoon — just hours after Trump had alleged of which Russia along with also also China could “forge ballots” — noting of which as the debate over mail-in voting heats up, threat actors can take advantage along with also also sow confusion.
“Mail-in voting has already become an issue among partisan political voices, which makes This specific a target for threat actors to exploit,” the assessment read. “These threat actors may mislead along with also also confuse the public about the mechanics of mail-in voting, along with also also leverage limited understanding regarding mail-in voting processes, in order to cause chaos along with also also provoke distrust inside the election administration along with also also electoral results.”
The report did not mention the possibility of ballots being forged along with also also then counted, focusing rather on the risks to each part of the process, determining they “can be managed through various policies, procedures, along with also also controls.”
A source close to the Trump campaign rejected the notion of which what the President is actually saying amounts to the kind of nefarious disinformation used by adversaries, although admitted the President’s intention usually is actually to cause chaos.
“The Russians along with also also Chinese are actively doing what they do to influence along with also also sway an election,” the source said. “The President’s tweet, although This specific carries weight, totally different — his intention is actually different.”
Changing actual votes, he said — as the President repeatedly alleges — is actually “extraordinarily difficult.”
“The diversity of election systems among the states, multiple checks along with also also redundancies in those systems, along with also also post-election auditing all make This specific extraordinarily difficult for foreign adversaries to broadly disrupt or change vote tallies without detection,” Evanina said in his statement.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to elaborate on Evanina’s views on mail-in ballots, saying the statement speaks for itself. The Trump along with also also Biden campaigns also declined to comment on his briefings to them.
Barr echoes Trump
The only top cabinet official who has echoed Trump’s concerns about the risks posed by mail-in voting is actually Attorney General William Barr.
“Right currently, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, along with also also This specific’d be very hard for us to detect which was the right along with also also which was the wrong ballot,” Barr told Fox News last month.
Senior Trump aide Stephen Miller continued the President’s line of attack on Friday, saying universal mail-in voting allows for “massive endemic fraud.”
Complexities of paper ballots
Chris Krebs, who oversees voting security for the administration as the director of the Cybersecurity along with also also Infrastructure Security Agency, recently all although dismissed the possibility of some other countries trying to meddle This specific way because of the complexities of paper ballots.
“First off, getting special card stock, or paper, via a very modest number of vendors of which know their customers very well along with also also if This specific shows up as, you know, the order coming via St. Petersburg along with also also paying in rubles of which might not clear the smell test,” Krebs said in a panel discussion two weeks ago with the Brookings Institution’s Dr. Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser.
Krebs has been among the most vocal election officials urging states to do away with purely electronic voting in favor of paper ballots to guarantee an auditable paper trail. CISA routinely participates inside the briefings led by Evanina.
“Understanding the different configurations of the ballots — printing them out the right way, getting the right signatures, which get checked on the back end” are all hurdles, Krebs listed, for any foreign country to interfere This specific way.
A spokesperson for CISA declined to comment further.
“Successful integrity attacks on voter registration data along with also also systems develop the potential to impact delivery of mail-in ballots along with also also acceptance of voted ballots unless detected in sufficient time,” they added.
although in unclassified calls with members of the committee over the past few months, Krebs has not brought up his concerns about foreign countries using fraudulent mail-in ballots, a Democratic aide on the committee said.
“We have not had documented cases in any number of presidential elections about forged mail-in ballots or forged ballots,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who attended a Thursday election security briefing. “If the President’s intelligence community or FBI has information, then they should present This specific to the Congress — plain along with also also simple.”
Asked if she had heard those concerns over forged ballots presented by the intelligence community to Capitol Hill, Jackson Lee said, “I have not.”
Krebs has praised the cooperation with General Paul Nakasone, the director of the National Security Agency along with also also Cyber Command, which play a critical role in thwarting along with also also responding to foreign cyberattacks. He too spoke last week about the increasing capability of foreign adversaries to meddle inside the 2020 election although also did not mention voting by mail.
“Our adversaries know of which This specific is actually a means upon which of which they can attempt to have an impact on us along with also also so we’ve seen the growth in terms of programs across all those major adversaries,” Nakasone said, adding, “our number one goal, our number one objective at the National Security Agency along with also also US Cyber Command is actually a safe, secure along with also also legitimate 2020 elections.”
This specific story has been updated with details via a brand new assessment by the Cybersecurity along with also also Infrastructure Security Agency.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to This specific report.