Russian officials asked three states if they could attend polling stations during the Nov. 8 election while Kremlin propaganda sites like Russia Today reported that Russia’s Central Elections Commission even asked the State Department for permission to watch the polls.
The State denied a request even came through:
“Any suggestion that we rejected Russia’s proposal to observe our elections is false,” Toner said, noting that allowing foreign observers is up to individual states. Russian officials could have participated in an observer delegation through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Toner added, but declined to do so, making their new complaints “nothing more than a PR stunt.”
But Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas confirmed that Russian officials sent letters to the state government asking for permission:
The Oklahoma secretary of state’s office says it received a letter in August from Russia’s consulate general in Houston seeking to have one of its officers present at a voting precinct to study the “US experience in organization of voting process.”
But the office denied the request, noting Oklahoma law prohibits anyone except election officials and voters from being present while voting is taking place.
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s spokeswoman called the requests a “propaganda ploy:”
“We’ve allowed observers from overseas in the past from other countries, never from Russia,” Meg Casper said. She added that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security also “told us not to do this.”
In early October, President Barack Obama’s administration officially blamed Russia for recent hacks to influence the 2016 elections.
Fingers have longed pointed fingers at Russia whenever hackers posted emails from the Democratic National Committee and phone calls with Democrats, but now U.S. intelligence agencies have enough confidence to put the blame on Russia:
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.
The agencies said some state election systems have been recently scanned and probed and that this action originated from servers operated by a Russian company. But the statement stopped short of definitively blaming the Russian government for that activity.
The U.S. also pressured Ecuador to cut off Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s internet access since the website has been publishing Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta’s emails. The government did this “after U.S. officials conveyed their conclusion that Assange is a willing participant in a Russian intelligence operation to undermine the U.S. presidential election.” From NBC:
U.S. intelligence officials believe Assange knows he is getting the information from Russian intelligence, though they do not believe he is involved in helping plan the hacking, officials told NBC.
“The general view is he is a willing participant in the Russian scheme but not an active plotter in it. They just realized they could use him,” said a senior intelligence official.