Trump admin finds 'no material impact' from foreign interference in 2018 midterms - Southern Business Review


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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Trump admin finds 'no material impact' from foreign interference in 2018 midterms

Trump administration officials said Tuesday that they found no evidence that any foreign actors had a "material impact on the integrity or security" of election infrastructure during the 2018 midterms.

They said that the findings applied to "identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent."

That conclusion was spelled out in a classified report sent by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to President Donald Trump on Monday, according to a joint statement.

The specific conclusions of the report will remain nonpublic, the press release said, but its findings will be utilized in future elections. In the meantime, "efforts to safeguard the 2020 elections are already underway," the statement said.

The finding comes nearly three months after the November midterm elections, where Democrats won majority control of the House and Republicans strengthened their hold in the Senate.

That cycle was dogged by reports of attempts by Russian trolls to wage online influence campaigns on the eve of Election Day.

For instance, the DOJ charged Russian national Elena Khusyaynova in October with participating in a conspiracy of "information warfare" against the U.S. by trying to "create and amplify divisive social media and political content."

But the agency's criminal complaint noted that it "does not include any allegation that Khusyaynova or the broader conspiracy had any effect on the outcome of an election."

After Election Day, Facebook revealed in a blog post that it had blocked dozens of accounts on Facebook and Instagram that were allegedly linked to Russian trolls.

Facebook said those social media accounts may have been linked to Internet Research Agency, the Russia-based troll farm that has been targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller is investigating Russia's meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as possible collusion with Trump campaign associates and potential obstruction of justice by Trump.

The special counsel claimed in a court filing Wednesday that evidence in one of his cases was recently used in an online disinformation campaign, apparently in an attempt to discredit his probe.

Whitaker and Nielsen's report is likely to please Trump, who has long disputed that Russia's meddling in 2016 had any impact on his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Read the full press release here:

Report Concludes No Material Impact of Foreign Interference on Election or Political/Campaign Infrastructure in 2018 Elections

WASHINGTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen yesterday submitted a joint report to President Donald J. Trump evaluating the impact of any foreign interference on election infrastructure or the infrastructure of political organizations, including campaigns and candidates in the 2018-midterm elections.

The classified report was prepared pursuant to section 1(b) of Executive Order 13848, Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Influence in a United States Election, which the President issued on Sept. 12, 2018.

Throughout the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security worked closely with federal, state, local, and private sector partners, including all 50 states and more than 1400 local jurisdictions, to support efforts to secure election infrastructure and limit risk posed by foreign interference. Efforts to safeguard the 2020 elections are already underway.

Although the specific conclusions within the joint report must remain classified, the Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. This finding was informed by a report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) pursuant to the same Executive Order and is consistent with what was indicated by the U.S. government after the 2018 elections.

While the report remains classified, its findings will help drive future efforts to protect election and political/campaign infrastructure from foreign interference.