Top Democrat accuses U.S. attorney general of lying about China election threat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Sunday accused U.S. Attorney General William Barr of lying when he said China posed a bigger threat to November’s U.S. election than Russia.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in the Congressional Auditorium at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

“That’s just a plain false statement by the attorney general,” Adam Schiff told CNN. “What Bill Barr just did in that statement was just flat out mislead the American people.”

Barr, named attorney general by President Donald Trump last year, told CNN on Wednesday that China was more of a threat than Russia when it comes to alleged interference in the U.S. elections. “I’ve seen intelligence. That’s what I’ve concluded,” he said, without offering details.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, made a similar comment on Friday, also without providing details.

Asked if Barr was lying, Schiff said: “That is basically what he is doing. And I hesitate to say that, but it is the reality.”

“Apparently Bill Barr is ready to do anything or say anything to help Donald Trump.”

Barr’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s rival in the Nov. 3 election, former Vice President Joe Biden, said on Friday he did not agree that China was the biggest threat to the election and that such an assessment was not consistent with intelligence briefings he had received.

Trump, who long touted friendly ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he sought to make good on trade deal promises, has made getting tough on China a key part of his re-election campaign, while accusing Biden of being soft towards Beijing.

U.S. intelligence found that Russia orchestrated a cyber campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election Trump’s favor and there have been reports hackers may try to influence the Nov. 3 election.

The top U.S. counterintelligence official, William Evanina, said last month that Russia, China and Iran would all attempt to interfere in the election.

He said Russia was already going after Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia U.S. “establishment,” while “Kremlin-linked actors” were trying to boost Trump’s candidacy via social media and Russian television. He said his agency assessed that China would prefer that Trump not win re-election.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Aurora Ellis