US to create center targeting foreign election interference

Regional News

Director Avril Haines of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Monday that it will establish a new center responding to what the U.S. intelligence community has assessed as attempts by Russia and other adversaries to interfere with American elections.

The Foreign Malign Influence Center will be housed in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates information sharing among U.S. spy agencies.

In a statement, ODNI said the center “will be focused on coordinating and integrating intelligence pertaining to malign influence, drawing together relevant and diverse expertise to better understand and monitor the challenge.” The news was first reported by Politico.

U.S. authorities continue to raise alarms about foreign interference in elections following several investigations into the ties between former President Donald Trump’s successful 2016 campaign and Russian intelligence. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation found no conclusive evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia, but Mueller declined to pass judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice.

The creation of a center targeting outside malign influence is a major shift from the previous administration. Trump repeatedly attacked the Mueller investigation and other probes of foreign involvement, pressuring authorities to downplay reports of election interference.

A declassified assessment released in March found that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations intended to help Trump last year. Iran tried to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the election results, and China “considered but did not deploy” influence operations, the assessment said.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in a statement about the assessment that foreign malign influence was “an enduring challenge facing our country.” She added, “These efforts by U.S. adversaries seek to exacerbate divisions and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions.”

Haines testified before Congress earlier this month that her office would move forward with setting up the center. ODNI said Monday that there was no official start date for the center and that the office was working with intelligence and other partners to identify resources and ways to cooperate.

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

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