WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pushed back against statements made by Attorney General William Barr that China, not Russia, is the most aggressive in trying to sow discord in U.S. politics.
Biden told reporters in Delaware Friday that he doesn’t agree that China is the biggest threat to the presidential election and said such assessment doesn’t match his intelligence briefings.
“There are a lot of countries around the world I think would be happy to see our elections destabilized. But the one who has worked the hardest, most consistently, and never has let up is Russia,” Biden said, adding later: “I just want to make it clear. I believe that any country that engages in any activity to delegitimize or impact on American elections is in direct violation of our sovereignty.”
A new intelligence assessment published last month found that Russia is actively working to “denigrate” Biden, while China views Trump as “unpredictable” and prefers that he not win re-election. The National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center also concluded that Iran is working to undermine Trump.
Speaking on Wednesday with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Barr said he believes China is more aggressive than Russia or Iran in trying to interfere in U.S. elections.
“Because I’ve seen the intelligence. That’s what I’ve concluded,” Barr said during the wide-ranging interview, declining to elaborate further.
“He’s a lousy enough attorney general, but he’s a really bad intelligence officer,” Biden said of Barr.
Biden also questioned why Trump doesn’t confront Russia President Vladimir Putin and said there should be consequences against any country that seeks to delegitimize the U.S. election.
“What is he so afraid of?” Biden said. “If I am president of the United States, there will be a response.”
The Trump administration has escalated the rhetoric against China. The president has blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak, while the Justice Department has cracked down on what officials described as efforts by the Chinese government to spy and steal American intellectual property and trade secrets.
‘A counterintelligence threat’:Paul Manafort was ‘a grave counterintelligence threat,’ Republican-led Senate panel finds
A bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed findings of former special counsel Robert Mueller that Russia sought to sway the 2016 race in Trump’s favor, although the probe did not find evidence of a conspiracy with the Kremlin.
Asked on CNN if he accepts the committee’s finding, Barr said he doesn’t dispute an assessment that Russia tried to interfere in the election.
Biden on Friday also weighed in on Trump’s call to North Carolina voters to test their state’s election system by voting twice: once by mail and then again in person. State officials have said that voting twice is illegal.
“It is a felony. It’s a felony here in the state of Delaware,” Biden said. “It’s all designed to create so much chaos that the rest of the election is thrown up in the air. It just undermines the legitimacy of our democratic process. And it’s dangerous.”
Contributing: Kevin Johnson and William Cummings