- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2020

The FBI has not detected any evidence of a widespread fraud conspiracy in this year’s elections, including in ballot-by-mail states, but is vigilant to the possibility, Director Christopher A. Wray said Thursday.

Testifying to the Senate, Mr. Wray said they haven’t seen those efforts in the past, either, partially because it’s tough to succeed.

“Certainly to change a federal election outcome by mounting that kind of fraud at scale would be a major challenge for an adversary, but people should make no mistake, we’re vigilant as to the threat and watching it carefully because we’re in uncharted, new territory,” he said.

When it comes to attempting to influence American politics, though, he did say China is playing an increasingly large role. That comes a week after he drew the ire of President Trump by singling out Russia during congressional testimony, saying Moscow was trying to “denigrate” the president’s Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden.

“Foreign adversaries will identify trends, divisive issues, in some cases conspiracy theories, that they will then, in effect, piggyback on and amplify and push to suit their own policy goals and propaganda,” he said. “And we see that across a range of adversaries. Russia, of course, but also China, also Iran.”

When it comes to the 2020 election specifically, he said Russia and Iran use online methods such as social media and placement of fake news stories.

China’s threat is different because it has such deeper economic ties to the U.S., he said, giving them a reach much broader and wider in terms of their reach to not just federal officials, but state and local officials, and they use economic levers very heavily.”

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, asked Mr. Wray to rank them in terms of which posed the biggest threat — many Democrats argue Russia is the chief concern.

The FBI chief said it’s not possible to compare the threats that way.

“The Russians are engaging, and as the [intelligence director’s] statement on behalf of the intelligence community says, they’re engaged in a range of measures, but also the Chinese [have] recently been expanding their influence efforts,” he said.

He said he’s expanded the focus of the FBI’s foreign influence task force to include China and Iran because “those countries are very much looking for different ways to take a page out of the malign foreign influence playbook that they’ve seen elsewhere.”

Last week Mr. Wray, asked about election interfering, said Russia was very active and was targeting Mr. Biden.

That summation drew a rebuke from Mr. Trump, who declined to say whether he still had confidence in his FBI chief.

“The big problem is China. And why he doesn’t want to say that, that certainly bothers me,” the president said.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Thursday, testifying to senators, said all three countries are a threat. And he said while Russia’s efforts are designed to oppose Mr. Biden, China and Iran are active and each “prefers” Mr. Biden to win.

Officials say they haven’t seen attempts to penetrate the election infrastructure itself this year, unlike 2016, when they traced some efforts back to Russia.

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