U.S. Intelligence Says Iran, Russia Carried Out Influence Operations
During 2020 Election
March 17, 2021
Russia and Iran both conducted misinformation operations to influence
the 2020 U.S. presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump,
according to a U.S. intelligence report.
The unclassified 15-page report, published by the Office of the Director
of National Intelligence on March 16, says there were no indications
foreign actors attempted to influence technical aspects of the U.S.
election, such as meddling with ballots or voter tabulation.
But it assesses that Russian President Vladimir Putin "authorized, and a
range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence
operations aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the
Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public
confidence in the electoral process and exacerbating sociopolitical
divisions in the United States."
Unlike during Russian meddling in the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence
did not observe Russian cyber-action to gain access to election
infrastructure. Instead, the report says the Russian state and its
proxies tried to impact U.S. public perceptions.
Moscow's strategy primarily revolved around using "proxies linked to
Russian intelligence to push influence narratives" to U.S. media,
officials, and prominent individuals, "including some close to former
President Trump and his administration," the report says.
As an example, the report cites Ukrainian-linked figures with ties to
Russian intelligence spreading misinformation about alleged corruption
involving President Biden, his son Hunter, and Ukraine. It says there is
no evidence the government of Ukraine was involved in these influence
Even after the November election, the report said Russian-linked online
influence actors sought to amplify narratives questioning the election
results and disparaging Biden and the Democratic Party.
In the future, Russia is likely to continue influence operations to try
to weaken the United States and "because they believe Washington meddles
similarly in Russia and other countries and that such efforts are
endemic to geostrategic competition," the report said.
Meanwhile, Iran also carried out "a multi-pronged covert influence
campaign" to damage Trump's reelection campaign, but did not actively
The goal of Iran's actions was to undermine confidence in the U.S.
election and institutions and foster divisions within society, the
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "authorized the campaign and
Iran's military and intelligence services implemented it using overt and
covert messaging and cyber-operations," the report says.
"We assess that Tehran designed its campaign to attempt to influence
U.S. policy toward Iran, distract U.S. leaders with domestic issues, and
amplify messages sympathetic to the Iranian regime," the report says.
Contrary to speculation that China interfered in the election, the
report says there is no evidence Beijing carried out any operations.
"China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and
did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for
China to risk blowback if caught," the report says.
Lebanon's Hizballah movement, Cuba, and Venezuela were also assessed to
have taken "some steps" to attempt to influence the election, but those
efforts were small in scale, the report says.