DHS warns Russia acting to ‘amplify’ attacks of vote-by-mail

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The Homeland Security Department has warned in a new memo Thursday that Russia is seeking to ‘amplify’ attacks on the nation’s mail-in voting system as part of its influence campaign.

News of the memo broke Thursday, a day when President Donald Trump once again attacked mail-in voting, as he has been doing for months. The president urged followers to vote by mail and then go to their polling place on election day and vote if their prior vote was not yet tabulated due to the ‘massive number’ of unsolicited and solicited ballots.

The bulletin was titled: ”Russia Likely to Continue Seeking to Undermine Faith in U.S. Electoral Process.’ 

A new Homeland Security bulletin warns that 'Russia Likely to Continue Seeking to Undermine Faith in U.S. Electoral Process' through attacks on mail-in voting

A new Homeland Security bulletin warns that ‘Russia Likely to Continue Seeking to Undermine Faith in U.S. Electoral Process’ through attacks on mail-in voting

‘We assess that Russia is likely to continue amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail and shifting voting process amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public trust in the electoral process,’ the agency writes.  

It warned that ‘Russian state media and proxy websites in mid-August 2020 criticized the integrity of expanded and universal vote-by-mail, claiming ineligible voters could receive ballots due to out-of-date voter rolls, leaving a vast amount of ballots unaccounted for and vulnerable to tampering.’

‘These websites also alleged that vote-by-mail processes would overburden the U.S. Postal Service and local boards of election,’ the bulletin warns, ‘delaying vote tabulation and creating more opportunities for fraud and error.’

The very topic represents a ‘target for foreign malign influence operations’ according to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis. 

The briefing was obtained by ABC News

Voters drop their ballot at the drop box at Broward County Supervisor of Election Headquarters in Lauderhill, Florida, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020

Voters drop their ballot at the drop box at Broward County Supervisor of Election Headquarters in Lauderhill, Florida, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020

Trump has attacked vote-by-mail and says it will lead to the election to be 'rigged' in favor of Democrat Joe Biden

Trump has attacked vote-by-mail and says it will lead to the election to be ‘rigged’ in favor of Democrat Joe Biden

The assessment says it was made with ‘high confidence.’ 

The agency issued the bulletin a day after the network reported that another draft bulletin on the election, ‘Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,’ had yet to come out after getting sent for further review immediately after being circulated. 

This bulletin echoed another of Trump’s attacks – going after rival Joe Biden’s mental ability. 

On Wednesday, Attorney General Bill Barr told CNN he expected Russia to once again try to interfere in the U.S. elections.  

‘It wouldn’t surprise me if Russia tries something again of the same general genre.’ he said. Barr cited ‘preliminary activity’ and referenced both ‘hack and dump’ operations and social media campaigns.  

DHS held back on releasing an intelligence warning to law enforcement agencies that Russia was pushing out political attacks on Democrat Joe Biden‘s mental health – a line that President Trump himself has promoted, it was revealed Wednesday.

After receipt of the bulletin citing ‘allegations about the poor mental health’ of Biden, a senior aide advised to withhold its release pending review by DHS head Chad Wolf, who is serving in an acting capacity. He is now Trump’s nominee to lead the agency but lacks Senate confirmation. 

The draft bulletin being circulated was titled: ‘Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,’ and was intended to alert law enforcement to keep on the lookout, according to ABC News, which obtained internal emails about the document.  

In the document, U.S. analysts stated their ‘high confidence’ that ‘Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.’

The examples they provided were about Biden and about Hillary Clinton in 2016.

‘Russian state media RT and Sputnik and a Russian proxy website between September 2019 and May 2020 posted allegations about the poor mental health of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden,’ the report said.

‘For example, the proxy website in March 2020 refuted media claims that the candidate’s gaffes are a result of a stutter, instead arguing these verbal miscues are symptoms of dementia.’ 

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