WASHINGTON — Despite repeated assertions by senior Trump administration officials that China sought to hurt then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, a newly declassified intelligence assessment finds that China did not seek to influence the outcome.
That is perhaps the most interesting revelation from a summary of election interference that proclaims what the government had already been telling the public: That Russian operatives didn’t hack into election infrastructure, but that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized “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 U.S.”
China, on the other hand, “considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election,” the assessment says, noting that the intelligence agencies have “high confidence in this judgment.”
“China sought stability in its relationship with the United States, did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling,” the assessment says.
It contradicts statements last year by Trump administration officials — Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, Attorney General William Barr and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien — that China was interfering in the election to hurt Trump.
One member of the intelligence community, the national intelligence officer for cyber, dissented from that conclusion, and argued that China did do some things online to hurt Trump. But the overall assessment does not support that conclusion.
The assessment found no indication that any foreign actor tried to hack or otherwise compromise any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 election, meaning software, voting machines, vote tabulation or registration data.
The assessment says Iran worked to undermine Trump. “We assess that Iran carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump’s reelection prospects — though without directly promoting his rivals — undermine public confidence in the electoral process and U.S. institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the U.S.,” it says.