Foreign meddling in U.S. presidential elections is a topic that has garnered seemingly unprecedented attention in recent years, even being used as a pretext for an attempt to oust a sitting commander in chief, but solid conclusions about the true origins and extent of any such interference have remained elusive.
In an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) charged former Attorney General William Barr with giving a dishonest take on election interference back in September when he said that China played the most aggressive role in term of foreign attempts to undermine American election processes, according to the Washington Examiner.
Murphy’s assessment comes on the heels of the release of a National Intelligence Council report stating that China “did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy interference efforts intended to change the outcome of the November election.” The report further said that Russia worked to undermine President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, while Iran attempted to weaken former President Donald Trump’s candidacy.
The senator’s comments were in reference to statements made by Barr last fall during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who asked which nation was acting as the most aggressive in the area of election meddling. In response, Barr declared that China was more assertive in “trying to influence the United States” than Russia, and that he had “seen the intelligence,” as the Examiner reported separately.
Upon this week’s release of the intelligence report on the matter, Murphy blasted the former AG, declaring that he “is just not telling the truth. There’s no one who actually read the intelligence who could come to the conclusion that China was a bigger threat than Russia.”
Murphy went so far as to suggest that had Barr been testifying under oath as to the same subject matter, his answer might have been different than the one he gave to Blitzer, saying, it would be necessary to see if he would tell the same story “when he was under the threat of perjury.”
Of note is the fact that Barr’s September assessment was in sync with that made by former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who said at the time that “China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation – economically, militarily and technologically,” adding that his assessment included “threats of election influence and interference.”
In fact, the classified version of the report cited by Murphy in his criticism of Barr was delayed in December as intelligence officials debated the assessments related to China and Ratcliffe pushed to have additional viewpoints incorporated into the final product.
Earlier this year, longtime intelligence official and analytic ombudsman Barry Zulauf produced a report given to the Senate Intelligence Committee in which he outlined excessive and troubling politicization within American spy agency assessments on foreign election meddling, which he claimed arose in large part from analysts who were simply unwilling to point fingers at China because of their own hostility toward the Trump administration.