Trump Aide O’Brien Says China Is Biggest Threat to U.S. Election

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President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said Friday that China -- not Russia -- represents the biggest foreign threat to the upcoming U.S. election.

O’Brien said at a White House news conference that China “has the most massive program” to influence the election, after he was asked about a reported Russian campaign to disseminate disinformation about vote-by-mail services.

“We’ve made it very clear to the Chinese, to the Russians, to the Iranians” that there will be consequences for election interference, O’Brien said.

The Trump administration is “just not going to tolerate these other countries trying to get involved in our elections,” he said.

U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to help Trump win, and national security officials have warned the country is likely attempting to interfere again this year. Trump has long disputed that the Kremlin sought his election and has publicly accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Russia meddled in the 2016 campaign.

Facebook Inc. announced Tuesday that it had removed a network of accounts and pages that originated in Russia and had links to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-connected organization that led the 2016 interference effort.

Asked to substantiate his assertion that China is more aggressively attempting to interfere in the 2020 election than Russia, O’Brien instead cited a litany of Trump administration complaints about China’s economic, trade and foreign policies.

“Everything that they’re doing across the board” amounts to election interference, he said, including “Confucius Institute” partnerships the country has established with U.S. universities, unspecified pressure on U.S. business leaders to support the Chinese government and “massive activities of the Chinese in the cyber realm.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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