The Biden administration says it is "tracking multiple threats" from China, Russia, and "non-state actors" to US midterm elections.
Top Biden national security officials are tracking multiple threats to the nation’s election security infrastructure ahead of the midterms and are set to issue warnings, including in an internal intelligence bulletin this week, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The bulletin will lay out details of cyber threats posed by China and Russia, as well as other non-state actors, and potential physical threats to election officials in jurisdictions across the country, the people said. The warnings come as the midterm elections near and amid increasing reports of intimidation at ballot drop boxes. The people requested anonymity to talk freely about sensitive national security and election matters.
Elsewhere on Monday, the Department of Justice addressed several malign influence schemes and alleged criminal activity by non-state actors. While those charges were unrelated to the intelligence bulletin warning, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged during a press conference that foreign governments continue to pose a major threat to U.S. elections.
“Malign foreign influence — whether it’s from the Chinese government, the Russian government or other governments — is not just an election-cycle issue, but a 365-day-a-year problem,” Wray said.
The internal administration concerns about election threats come days after a call was held between federal officials and local law enforcement personnel about the midterms, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Those on the call discussed the potential for violence in response to the spread of false narratives regarding the election process. Officials said election workers, including those working at polling stations, are likely to face threats and harassment from extrements both online and offline, the person familiar with the matter said.
“We are now hearing reports of people surrounding ballot drop boxes, some even wearing tactical gear, and questioning people,” said John Cohen, the former counterterrorism chief at DHS. “Are the police prepared for that? They need to be. All of this is being driven by the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.”
The FBI, DHS and DOJ did not respond to requests for comment.
Spoilers: "Non-state actors" here means white supremacist domestic terrorism groups, driven by the Big Lie, to stake out early voting drop boxes in overt, heavily armed voter intimidation efforts in Arizona.
Arizona officials on Saturday sounded alarms about voter safety after two armed individuals deemed “vigilantes” dressed in tactical gear were found outside a Maricopa County ballot drop box Friday evening.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box. Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer in a joint statement.
“Although monitoring and transparency in our elections is critical, voter intimidation is unlawful. For those who want to be involved in election integrity, become a poll worker or an official observer with your political party. Don’t dress in body armor to intimidate voters as they are legally returning their ballots,” the statement continued.
The two armed individuals left the Mesa ballot drop box after Maricopa County law enforcement responded, according to the elections officials.
The incident comes after the Arizona secretary of state last week referred a case of possible voter intimidation to the Justice Department and the state’s attorney general after a voter attempting to cast their ballot in Maricopa County was reportedly “approached and followed by a group of individuals.”
Be careful out there when you vote.