Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he is putting Russia and other foreign governments “on notice” that he would act aggressively as president to counter any interference in U.S. elections. The statement came hours after Democratic leaders issued a new warning that Congress appears to be the target of a foreign interference campaign.
Biden said in a statement Monday that he would treat foreign interference as an “an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government.” He criticized President Donald Trump for not doing enough in response to U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
“If any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs,” Biden said.
The new alarms give a renewed urgency to concerns that foreign actors could be trying to influence the vote or sow disinformation. Biden said last week that he had begun receiving intelligence briefings and warned that Russia, China and other adversaries were attempting to undermine the presidential election. Biden gave no evidence, but he said that Russia was “still engaged” after 2016 and that China was also involved in efforts to sow doubts in the American electoral process.
During an online fundraiser Monday night, Biden added: “It’s going to be tough, there’s not much I can do about it now except talk about it, and expose it, but it is a serious concern. It is truly a violation of our sovereignty.”
And in an interview on MSNBC, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows I mean what I say.”
The Democratic leaders said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday that they are concerned that Congress appears to be the target of a “concerted foreign interference campaign” to influence the 2020 presidential election. They asked Wray for an all-members, classified briefing on the matter before the August recess.
The letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees contains no details about the threats, though they describe them as serious and specific.
“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” wrote Pelosi, Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel.—AP