April 18, 2021

FBI director Chris Wray and top US intelligence officials release video countering Trumps conspiracies about election integrity

  • Four top US officials released a video Tuesday reassuring US voters about the integrity of the election process and countering many of the claims President Donald Trump has made about foreign interference, voter fraud, and mail-in ballots.
  • FBI director Christopher Wray said that regardless of how voters cast their ballots, “rest assured that the security of the election — and safeguarding your vote — is and will continue to be one of our highest priorities.”
  • Trump has said that the election will be “rigged” against him and that increased voting by mail will lead to a fraudulent result. He also suggested that foreign powers could manipulate mail ballots and spark widespread voter fraud.
  • William Evanina, the top counterintelligence official in the US, contradicted Trump’s claim about foreign interference with mail ballots, saying that “it would be very difficult for adversaries to interfere with, or manipulate, voting results at scale.”
  • Evanina also revealed that foreign actors are trying to hack into election infrastructure.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The United States’ top intelligence and law enforcement officials released a video on Tuesday defending the integrity of the election and countering many of the claims President Donald Trump has amplified about purported voter fraud and mail-in ballot issues.

“Next month, we will exercise one of our most cherished rights and a foundation of our democracy – the right to vote in a free and fair election,” FBI director Christopher Wray said. “Some Americans will go to the polls on November 3rd to cast their votes, while others will be voting by mail; in fact, some have already begun to return their ballots.”

Chris Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, added: “I’m here to tell you that my confidence in the security of your vote has never been higher. That’s because of an all-of-nation, unprecedented election security effort over the last several years.”

William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in the video that foreign actors are working hard to sway the election by spreading disinformation. They’re trying to “collect derogatory personal information from candidates, campaigns, and prominent Americans” and hack into election infrastructure, he said.

The FBI and DHS had denied for weeks that hostile foreign powers were trying to gain access to election infrastructure, and Evanina’s statement was the first acknowledgement of such activity by the US government, NBC News’ Ken Dilanian noted.

Trump was not explicitly mentioned in the video, but US officials made several statements directly contradicting his claims that the election will be “rigged,” that increased voting by mail would lead to a fraudulent result, and that foreign actors could manipulate mail ballots.

“No matter which method you choose, your voice is important,” Wray said. “Rest assured that the security of the election – and safeguarding your vote – is and will continue to be one of our highest priorities.”

Trump and his allies, including Attorney General William Barr, have also suggested that foreign powers could interfere in the election by mass-producing counterfeit mail ballots and sending them to US voters.

Evanina appeared to contradict that in the video, saying, “To be clear, it would be very difficult for adversaries to interfere with, or manipulate, voting results at scale.”

As Insider previously reported, there are several reasons why foreign countries interfering with the mail-in voting process is very unlikely.

Election administration in the US is not centralized, meaning there is no single national ballot that a foreign state could replicate and send to voters. Moreover, most ballots and the envelopes they’re mailed in are difficult to mimic because they contain specific information about barcodes, precincts, and voter ID numbers.

Senior government officials also said last month that the US intelligence community has found no evidence of foreign interference with mail ballots.

“We have no information or intelligence that any nation or state actor is engaging in any kind of activity to undermine any part of the mail-in vote or ballots,” a senior federal official, who asked to remain anonymous, told reporters, according to The Washington Post.

US officials also appeared to counter Trump’s claim that the results of the election will be fraudulent unless they’re announced on Election Night itself or shortly thereafter.

“Elections are going to look a little different this year,” Krebs said. “While this will change the way Americans vote, Americans will vote. And Americans will decide American elections. And you, as the American voter, are the last line of defense.”

He also said that voters should “be patient, because of the changes due to COVID, on November 3rd, we might not know the outcome of our election.”

“And that’s okay, but we’re going to need your patience until official results are announced,” Krebs continued. “So get out there and vote with confidence, and be a part of protecting 2020.”

Tuesday’s video will likely enrage the president and those around him. Both Wray and Evanina have already drawn significant ire from Trumpworld over their public statements about Russia’s interference in the electoral process.

Just last week, The Daily Beast reported that Trump has trained his sights on replacing Wray as FBI director after the general election.

Some Trump allies have publicly mocked Wray with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows saying in a CBS News interview that the FBI director “has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI let alone figuring out whether there is any kind of voter fraud.” And Georgia Rep. Doug Collins said Wray was “complicit” in what Republicans say was a Democratic-led plot to sink Trump’s 2016 candidacy by tying his campaign to Russia’s campaign to interfere in the election.

The US intelligence community assessed with high confidence in 2017 that the Russian government meddled in the race to denigrate then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and elevate Trump to the Oval Office. Those findings were later confirmed by the special counsel Robert Mueller and a bipartisan Senate report on the matter.