WASHINGTON: American intelligence officials on Wednesday claimed Iran and Russia are meddling in US election that – even before charges of foreign interference – has already been relentlessly disparaged by President Donald Trump.
The new allegations, voiced by the FBI and top US intelligence officials, comes amid a domestic crisis of credibility involving arcane rules, arbitrary regulations, and voter suppression reports surrounding the elections, even as more than 44 million Americans – about 30 per cent of the expected turnout – have already cast ballots in early voting as of Thursday.
Muddying the waters even further, US officials alleged that Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information in an effort to sway the outcome of the election. Iran specifically was accused by John Ratcliffe — a partisan right-winger handpicked by Trump to head the Directorate of National Intelligence — of using operatives posing as the far-right groups Proud Boys to send intimidating emails to Democratic voters in an effort to somehow damage President Trump.
Both Iran and Russia denied the allegations, calling it baseless and unfounded.
The charges from a country that is known to have meddled in politics and elections in countries across the world for long came even as Trump himself continued to denigrate the election and the frills that go with it, including the presidential debates, the third of which is scheduled for Thursday night (Friday 6 a.m IST.)
After making a mockery of the first debate that embarrassed the US in front of the world and boycotting the second debate because it was turned into a virtual format following is Covid-19 diagnosis, the US President is participating in the final face-off with Democratic challenger Joe Biden. But he is stewing over new rules that will silence the mic of each participant while the other is speaking in an effort aimed at preventing his repeated interference and hectoring in the first debate. Trump and his supporters think that is unfair and have disparaged both the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates and the moderator Kristen Welker.
Ahead of debate, Trump campaigned in Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina, battleground states he won in 2016 and where he now trails Biden in polls he believes are fake or undercount the “silent” support he enjoys from shy voters who don’t necessarily reveal their preference to pollsters.
“If I do not sound like a typical Washington politician, it’s because I’m NOT a politician. If I do not always play by the rules of the Washington Establishment, it’s because I was elected to fight for YOU, harder than anyone ever has before!” Trump said in a pair of tweets that distilled the case he is making for his re-election, claiming that he is not just running against Biden, but also “against the Corrupt Media, the Big Tech Giants, and the Washington Swamp.”
I am not just running against Biden, I am running against the Corrupt Media, the Big Tech Giants, and the Washingto… https://t.co/o3CMsR89p0
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1603331238000
But Trump also has to contend with a new force in the final ten days of the campaign, his style having brought Barack Obama out of political retirement traditionally embraced by most former Presidents. In a withering takedown of his White House successor in a campaign speech aimed at rousing indifferent Democratic voters, Obama ridiculed Trump’s divisive behaviour including retweeting conspiracy theories that you wouldn’t tolerate from anyone “except from a crazy uncle.”
He also took aim at Trump’s alleged financial capers, sneering that he (Obama) paid more in taxes in his first job serving ice-cream at Baskin-Robbins than the $ 750 the President paid during his first year in office.
“Can you imagine if I had had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection? You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would have called me Beijing Barry,” Obama said in reference to Trump’s alleged secret Chinese bank account that his advisors maintain was part of a transparent business operation.
Trump and his supporters, in turn, have alleged that it is Biden and his son Hunter who have shady and corrupt financial deals with China. Both candidates are expected to trade charges in Thursday night’s debate, leaving viewers and voters to navigate through the fog of allegations.
Amid the political skirmishes on the campaign trail and in the media, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, setting up a final vote for confirmation in a full Senate on Monday.
Republicans pushed through the nomination 12-0 after the 10 Democratic senators on the panel – including Kamala Harris — boycotted the vote and placed pictures of people who rely upon the Affordable Care Act on their chairs to draw attention to an upcoming case on the health care law’s constitutionality.