Joseph Hippolito, Chinese election interference?
Ever since Americans elected President Donald Trump four years ago, Democrats and progressives have accused him of using Russian influence to win. Now, as Trump makes his legal case for re-election, Americans will learn not only about the steps he took to repel the threat of foreign interference.
Americans also could learn that the cries of “Russian interference” merely diverted attention from another possible foreign player assisting Trump’s opposition.
Defusing such a threat began when Trump gave responsibility for overseeing federal elections to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS defines foreign interference as “malign actions … designed to sow discord, manipulate public discourse, discredit the electoral system, bias the development of policy, or disrupt markets for the purpose of undermining the interests of the United States and its allies.”
In November 2018, Trump signed legislation that created the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) under DHS’s jurisdiction. CISA’s job is to “defend civilian networks, manage systemic risk to national critical functions” and improve security infrastructure. As part of that job, CISA devised Protect2020, a comprehensive project encouraging society to prevent electoral fraud.
Working alongside DHS is the Department of Justice. On Oct. 29, DOJ issued a release stating that the department’s National Security Division, through its Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, guards against “a range of malign influence activities that foreign governments may attempt, including computer hacking of election or campaign infrastructure; covert information operations (e.g., to promulgate disinformation through social media); covert efforts to support or denigrate political candidates or organizations; and other covert influence operations that might violate various criminal statutes.”
On Nov. 2, DOJ issued another release stating it would monitor voting and tabulating procedures in 44 counties and cities in 18 states. Those states included Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin — the most disputed states during the presidential election.
Among the counties and cities under scrutiny were Arizona’s Maricopa County, Fulton and Gwinnett counties in Metropolitan Atlanta, the City of Detroit and four of its suburbs, Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania, and the cities of Milwaukee and Minneapolis — sites of the worst electoral anomalies.
In each instance, the National Guard assisted DOJ and DHS.
DHS and CISA also help states design such measures as “barcodes, watermarks and precise paper weights,” the CISA website stated, to keep ballots from being counterfeited.
For example, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a letter in August to county clerks and registrars of voters that detailed the design and color of ballot watermarks for this year’s general election.
Such countermeasures would prove pivotal in determining whether ballots were fraudulent. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito probably thought so when he ordered Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, to segregate and count separately mail-in ballots that arrived before the polls closed from those that arrived between closure and 5 p.m. Nov. 6.
Trump certainly did. During his press conference Nov. 4, he said:
“We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”
Trump made that comment at about 2 a.m. Roughly two hours later, former Vice President Joe Biden received vertical spikes in votes to pass Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan recorded about 138,000 votes for Biden in that spike — and none for Trump.
How would Trump know? Military cyberintelligence — working with DHS — would provide data from a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.
If Biden’s votes are illegitimate, who cast them? Where did they come from? USA Today might have unwittingly provided an answer.
USA Today streamed a video of election workers in Atlanta sorting ballots. One worker took a large mailing envelope and put it aside unopened. A Chinese site played that video and noticed the insignia for SF Express on the envelope.
SF Express is a Chinese version of UPS. It is China’s largest privately owned currier and ships freight from China to other Asian countries, Europe and the United States.
The translation of the Chinese text accompanying the video says, “SF International Customer Service stated that SF Express can only ship from China to the United States and does not currently support receiving and sending within the United States.”
SF Express was founded by Wang Wei, who also serves as its chairman. Wang, 49, turned his small smuggling business into a company Forbes valued at $29.2 billion as of May. In the process, Wang’s personal worth grew to $31.2 billion as of Nov. 8, according to Forbes.
Wang came from privilege. His father served as a translator for the Chinese air force and his mother was a professor. Considering that Wang was born during the middle of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, his parents would have been ideologically reliable members of China’s Communist Party.
Considering Wang’s wealth and influence, he likely belongs to the party.
Wang grew his wealth and influence dramatically in 2017, when he listed SF Express on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. He did so by merging his firm “with a small rare-earths company already listed in Shenzhen, then taking its place,” Agencé France Presse wrote.
That maneuver, which China’s government approved, enabled Wang to bypass 700 other companies waiting to be listed.
Given China’s near monopoly on processing rare earths — which are vital in developing weapons and consumer electronics — Wang’s transaction means more than a seat at a stock exchange.
But would Wang be involved in foreign election interference, at his government’s behest? Would any Chinese magnate? Another possible indicator offers more questions than answers.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Mike Bird tweeted, the Chinese yuan plunged precipitously in currency trading against the dollar as early results favored Trump. But when Biden appeared to surpass the president, the yuan recovered much of its value.
By Nov. 6, the yuan had reached heights not seen since mid-2018.
Given alleged corruption involving Biden and his son, Hunter, in their dealings with the Chinese, the possibility of Chinese interference becomes more troubling.
David Rennie, Beijing bureau chief for The Economist, offers this sobering observation, which likely would apply regardless of court decisions and their aftermaths:
“American gridlock is a win for China. That’s how Communist Party leaders see it: that their destiny is struggle with the US, and American divisions help China.”