BY JACQUELINE THOMSEN – 10/10/18 11:53 AM EDT
Top U.S. national security officials warned Wednesday that China is attempting to influence the opinions of Americans, but said there is no evidence that the country is trying to interfere in election infrastructure.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before a Senate committee that China is “exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion.”
However, she pointed to previous remarks she has made about President Trump’s claims that China was seeking to interfere in U.S. elections, noting that officials have “not seen to date any Chinese attempts to compromise election infrastructure.”
U.S. officials have warned of attempts by countries like Russia, China and Iran to try and sway American opinion ahead of November’s midterm elections. China has recently faced more intense scrutiny over such campaigns after Trump claimed last month that the country was attempting to interfere in the midterm elections over his crackdown on Chinese trade policies.
FBI Director Christopher Wray also said during the hearing that China “in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face.”
“Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union. They’re fighting today’s fight,” he said. “China is fighting tomorrow’s fight, and the day after tomorrow and the day after that.”
Chinese influence campaigns were thrust into the spotlight last month when Trump said the country was trying to interfere in November’s midterm elections. The president has not provided evidence to back up his claims, and China has disputed the charges.
Vice President Pence also asserted last week that China is trying to exert influence over U.S. elections.
Still, Nielsen said last week that there is “no indication” of any foreign adversaries trying to interfere with election infrastructure.
“We know they have the capability and we know they have the will,” Nielsen said of China at an event hosted by The Washington Post. “So we’re constantly on alert. What we see with China right now are influence campaigns, the more traditional, long-standing, holistic influence campaigns.”