- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2022

The White House said Americans should feel confident in the election system despite a Kremlin-linked entrepreneur’s apparent admission that Russia interfered in U.S. elections and will continue to do so.

While Yevgeny Prigozhin’s remarks on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday are concerning, they come as not “new or surprising,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“It’s well documented and in the public domain that entities associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin have sought to influence elections around the world including the United States,” she said. “It’s not surprising that Russia would be highlighting their attempted efforts and fabricating a story about their success on the eve of an election,” she said.

Mr. Prigozhin, who is known in Russia as “Putin’s chef” for hosting senior Kremlin officials and foreign dignitaries at his restaurants, said earlier Monday on the social media platform Telegram that Russia worked to influence foreign elections.

“Gentlemen, we have interfered, are interfering and will interfere,” he said. “Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.” 

Mr. Prigozhin is one of several Russian nationals and Russian companies who were indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation for carrying out a social media campaign to shape public opinion and foment discord in America ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

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He has also been sanctioned by the Treasury Department for election interference.

“The U.S. has worked to expose and counter Russia’s malign influence as we discover them,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

Despite Mr. Prigozhin’s comments, she said Americans “should have confidence in their election system.”

Mr. Prigozhin, 61, had previously denied accusations that he had attempted to interfere with U.S. elections. The new admission is likely an attempt to gain political clout within Russia. 

In September, Mr. Prigozhin admitted to being behind the Russian mercenary force, the Wagner Group, which is another claim he had previously denied. He also spoke openly about the group operating in Ukraine.

The Wagner Group, which also operates in Syria and Africa, has been accused of recruiting Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine. 

Ms. Jean-Pierre also responded to concerns raised by reporters about the potential for violence on Election Day or in the days following, but said the White House has been briefed by law enforcement and that there are “no specific, credible threats identified at this point.”

“American should feel safe going to the polls,” she said. “The administration has taken the issue of threats to the safety of voters and election officials seriously from day one.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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