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US reportedly readying sanctions on Russia next week over election meddling

Iran, China and other countries also expected to be targeted in wake of intelligence report identifying attempts to sway 2020 presidential vote

Nevadans wait to vote in-person at Reed High School in Sparks, Nevada, prior to polls closing in the US presidential elections, November 3, 2020.  (Scott Sonner/AP)
Nevadans wait to vote in-person at Reed High School in Sparks, Nevada, prior to polls closing in the US presidential elections, November 3, 2020. (Scott Sonner/AP)

Washington is expected to announce sanctions on Russia next week over alleged meddling in the 2020 US presidential elections, CNN reported Tuesday.

There will also likely be sanctions on Iran, China and other countries, according to to the report, which cited three anonymous US State Department officials.

An administration official also told the Reuters news agency that US President Joe Biden had “been clear” that action would be taken over the election interference.

The official indicated that the US won’t balk from taking the steps and referred to the Biden administration’s announcement earlier this month of sanctions on Russian officials and businesses for a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack upon opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.

Earlier, a declassified intelligence assessment found broad efforts by the Kremlin and Iran to shape the outcome of the race — albeit each backing opposing candidates — but ultimately no evidence that any foreign actor changed votes or otherwise disrupted the voting process.

The report released Tuesday from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence represented the most detailed assessment of the array of foreign threats to the 2020 election. Those included efforts by Iran to undermine confidence in the vote and harm Donald Trump’s reelection prospects, as well as Moscow operations that relied on Trump’s allies to smear Biden, the eventual winner.

Although an August intelligence assessment found that Beijing preferred a Biden presidency, China ultimately did not interfere on either side and “considered but did not deploy” influence operations intended to affect the outcome.

The primary threats instead came from Russia and Iran, albeit with different intentions and through different means, according to intelligence officials.

Russia, the report said, sought to undermine Biden’s candidacy because it viewed him as opposed to the Kremlin’s interests, though it took some steps to prepare for a Democratic administration as the election neared.

The report also says Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations aimed at denigrating Biden, boosting Trump, undermining confidence in the election and exacerbating social divisions in the US.

Notably, though, Russia was not as aggressive as in past election cycles in trying to hack election infrastructure. The report said Russian cyber operations that targeted state and local government networks last year were probably not election-focused and were instead part of a broader effort to target US and global entities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, March 12, 2021. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Iran, meanwhile, carried out an influence campaign aimed at harming Trump’s reelection bid, an effort US officials say was probably approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s efforts, which officials say were more aggressive than in past elections and continued even after the contest was over, were focused on sowing discord in the US, likely because Tehran believed that would hurt Trump’s reelection chances.

The 15-page document is a declassified version of an election interference report that was provided to Trump on January 7, one day after a riot at the US Capitol that occurred as Congress was gathering to certify the election results.

A separate document released Tuesday from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security reached a similar conclusion about the integrity of the election, saying there was no evidence any foreign actor had changed votes.

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