FBI head con­tra­dicts Trump over for­eign mail bal­lot fraud

The Timaru Herald - - World -

FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray told sen­a­tors yes­ter­day that the United States has not ex­pe­ri­enced large-scale voter fraud by mail or other means, and said it would be a ‘‘ma­jor chal­lenge’’ for a for­eign coun­try to at­tempt such a thing, de­spite re­peated claims made by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the run-up to Novem­ber’s elec­tion.

‘‘Amer­i­cans must have con­fi­dence in our vot­ing sys­tem and our elec­tion in­fra­struc­ture,’’ Wray told the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee. ‘‘We are not go­ing to tol­er­ate for­eign in­ter­fer­ence in our elec­tions.’’

Se­na­tor Gary Pe­ters, D-Mich., pressed Wray about claims made by Trump and his sup­port­ers that for­eign in­ter­ests could in­ter­fere with the elec­tion by send­ing in bo­gus mail-in bal­lots. Wray re­sponded by echo­ing the past as­sur­ances from US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials that they’ve seen no sign of such ac­tiv­ity so far in this elec­tion cy­cle.

‘‘We have not seen his­tor­i­cally any kind of co-or­di­nated na­tional voter fraud ef­fort in a ma­jor elec­tion, whether it’s by mail or oth­er­wise’’ Wray said, though he added fraud has been de­tected ‘‘at the lo­cal level from time to time.’’

The FBI direc­tor, seem­ingly aware that his com­ments about elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence last week an­gered the pres­i­dent, said he was ‘‘in no way min­imis­ing’’ any threat to bal­lots. Chang­ing the out­come of a fed­eral elec­tion ‘‘would be a ma­jor chal­lenge for an ad­ver­sary,’’ he said, adding that the FBI ‘‘would in­ves­ti­gate se­ri­ously’’ if it saw in­di­ca­tions of such an ef­fort.

Hours af­ter Wray’s tes­ti­mony, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Penn­syl­va­nia is­sued a state­ment that they had found nine dis­carded mil­i­tary mail-in bal­lots as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a small num­ber of such votes. Seven of the nine bal­lots were marked for Trump, and the other two re­mained sealed, so the mark­ings on those bal­lots were un­known, Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials said af­ter ini­tially declar­ing that all nine bal­lots had been cast for the pres­i­dent.

The pres­i­dent’s cam­paign quickly seized on the state­ment, tweet­ing that ‘‘Democrats are try

ing to steal the elec­tion.’’

Trump has ar­gued that mailin vot­ing is highly sus­pect, say­ing bal­lots re­quested by in­di­vid­ual vot­ers are se­cure but that bal­lot ap­pli­ca­tions sent out based on voter rolls are not. On Fri­day he urged peo­ple in Florida, an im­por­tant bat­tle­ground state, to ‘‘make sure to re­quest’’ a mail-in bal­lot and sub­mit it.

Yes­ter­day’s hear­ing about threats to the coun­try ranged over top­ics from the up­com­ing

elec­tion, in­clud­ing civil un­rest over po­lice mis­con­duct and the hack­ing of US com­pa­nies.

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors asked Wray what more could be done to stem the vi­o­lent flare-ups at some protests that have oc­curred through­out the coun­try since the spring.

Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., the com­mit­tee chair­man and a staunch ally of the pres­i­dent, said ‘‘the ri­ot­ing, the an­ar­chy’’ is the ‘‘cur­rent great­est threat to our democ­racy.’’

Ken Cuc­cinelli, the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s act­ing No. 2 of­fi­cial as head of US Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, also tes­ti­fied at the hear­ing, and ac­cused Democrats of in­cit­ing ri­ot­ing.

‘‘So much of the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in the coun­try has en­cour­aged this vi­o­lence,’’ Cuc­cinelli said, sin­gling out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Port­land Mayor Ted Wheeler, a

Demo­crat. ‘‘We see this rife across large swaths of our po­lit­i­cal arena.’’

Wray, who Trump crit­i­cised last week for not be­ing tougher in his com­ments about an­tifa ac­tivists, tried again to stake out the FBI’s po­si­tion on the an­tifas­cist col­lec­tive.

‘‘Let me try to be as clear as I can about that: an­tifa is a real thing, it is not a fic­tion. We have seen or­gan­ised tac­ti­cal ac­tiv­ity at the lo­cal re­gional level,’’ Wray said.

The FBI is find­ing ‘‘a lot of the ac­tiv­ity is or­gan­ised at what I would call more of a tac­ti­cal level than a strate­gic level, and or­gan­ised more lo­cally,’’ he said, adding ‘‘that in no way, in no way, di­min­ishes how se­ri­ous and dan­ger­ous it is. We don’t view how na­tion­ally or­gan­ised some­thing is as a proxy for how dan­ger­ous it is.’’

But he cau­tioned that some of the peo­ple who may be in­volved in vi­o­lence have ‘‘a mish­mash’’ or ‘‘salad bar’’ of ide­olo­gies, and as a re­sult many of them don’t have eas­ily de­fined mo­tives be­yond an at­trac­tion to vi­o­lence.

– Wash­ing­ton Post

‘‘We have not seen his­tor­i­cally any kind of co­or­di­nated na­tional voter fraud ef­fort in a ma­jor elec­tion, whether it’s by mail or oth­er­wise.’’ Christo­pher Wray FBI Direc­tor

AP

FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray told sen­a­tors the FBI was not go­ing to tol­er­ate for­eign in­ter­fer­ence in US elec­tions.

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