US intelligence reports threw cold water on Republican conspiracy theories about Biden and the 2020 election

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Trump/Barr
Trump makes a statement with Attorney General William Barr in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • A US intelligence report released Tuesday debunked GOP conspiracy theories about mail-in ballots.

  • It also cast doubt on Republican allegations of corruption tied to the Bidens and Ukraine.

  • A second report threw cold water on Giuliani's claims about foreign interference with election infrastructure.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A newly declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a second, joint report from the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security released on Tuesday shot down months of Republican conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, the integrity of the electoral process, and President Joe Biden's foreign dealings.

Here are some of President Donald Trump and his allies' biggest allegations and how they stack up with the reports' findings:

Claim: Foreign adversaries manipulated mail-in ballots during the 2020 election.

"There are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in," and "it'd be very hard to sort out what's happening," then-Attorney General William Barr told The New York Times last June. It's "one of the issues that I'm really worried about," he said.

Days after Barr floated the theory, Trump jumped on the bandwagon.

"RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!" he tweeted from an account that has since been permanently banned due to the risk of inciting violence.

Barr also doubled down on the conspiracy theory in a September interview with CNN, telling anchor Wolf Blitzer that he was "basing that on logic." When Blitzer asked Barr if he'd seen any evidence to support the allegation, he replied, "No."

What the ODNI report said: "We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 US elections, including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results."

"We assess that it would be difficult for a foreign actor to manipulate election processes at scale without detection by intelligence collection on the actors themselves, through physical and cyber security monitoring around voting systems across the country, or in post-election audits," it said.

The intelligence community "identified some successful compromises of state and local government networks prior to Election Day" and "a higher volume of unsuccessful attempts." But those efforts, it added, "were not directed at altering election processes."

The report's conclusion aligned with what a senior federal official told reporters last year: "We have no information or intelligence that any nation or state actor is engaging in any kind of activity to undermine any part of the mail-in vote or ballots."

Claim: The Biden family engaged in corrupt dealings with Ukraine and Ukraine-linked actors.

This was a major storyline in conservative circles in the run-up to the 2020 election. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, spent months accusing then candidate Biden of inappropriately leveraging his role as vice president in 2016 to help his son, Hunter, who served on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings at the time.

Giuliani is known to have met with the pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach in 2019, and Derkach made headlines last year over his efforts to launder disinformation about Biden to Trump's congressional allies. He was later sanctioned by the US Treasury over his efforts to influence the election.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin also latched onto the claim about the Bidens and Ukraine and launched a committee investigation into the family's foreign dealings that ultimately came up empty.

What the ODNI report said: The narrative about Biden and Ukraine was part of a Russian intelligence effort to "push influence narratives - including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden - to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration."

The conclusion confirmed a previous assessment by US intelligence officials which specifically mentioned Derkach and accused him of "spreading claims about corruption - including through publicizing leaked telephone calls - to undermine former Vice President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party."

Claim: Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

Trump, Giuliani, and senior Republicans like Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan have repeatedly made this allegation. The former president mentioned it during an infamous phone call with Ukraine's president that ultimately led to his impeachment.

Nunes reiterated it during Trump's impeachment hearings while defending the president, saying, "Once you understand that Ukrainian officials were cooperating directly with President Trump's political opponents to undermine his candidacy, it's easy to understand why the president would want to learn the full truth about these operations and why he would be skeptical of Ukraine."

What the ODNI report said: Pro-Russian Ukrainians, Russian state media, trolls, and online proxies engaged in an effort to spread a narrative that included "falsely [blaming] Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election."

"We assess that the goals of this effort went beyond the US presidential campaign to include reducing the Trump administration's support for Ukraine," the report said of Russia's interference. "As the US presidential election neared, Moscow placed increasing emphasis on undermining the candidate it saw as most detrimental to its global interest. We have no evidence suggesting the Ukrainian Government was involved in any of these efforts."

Claim: Foreign countries with socialist or communist leaders interfered in the 2020 race by tampering with election infrastructure.

Giuliani was central to amplifying this allegation, as were Republican-linked lawyers like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood.

What the DOJ/DHS report said: "Following the election, the Department of Justice, including the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, including CISA, investigated the public claims and determined that they are not credible."

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