US intelligence assessments found Russia tried to influence campaigns to help Trump win in 2016, and again in failed 2020 race against Joe Biden.

Russia again favours Republican Donald Trump as its preferred candidate to win the US presidential election this year, a US intelligence official has said.

The official, briefing reporters on US election security, was careful not to name the former president and presumptive Republican nominee when asked who Moscow wants to see as the next US president.

But he indicated that Russia favoured Trump, adding that the US intelligence community had not changed its assessments of Moscow’s preference from previous elections.

“We have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections, given the role the US is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia,” the official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said on Tuesday.

Previous assessments found that Moscow had tried, through influence campaigns, to help Trump win in 2016 against Hillary Clinton and in the 2020 campaign which he lost to current US President Joe Biden.

Then-US President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin leave a news conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, in 2018 [File: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo]

Russia’s influence operations

So far the US has not detected plans by any country to “degrade or disrupt” the country’s ability to hold the presidential elections in November, officials said at the briefing attended by the ODNI, FBI, and the National Coordinator for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience – an agency that conducts cyber-defence for the US government and private industry.

But Russia, the ODNI official said, continues through social media and other means to try to influence specific groups of US voters in battleground states by promoting “divisive narratives and denigrate specific politicians”, whom he did not name.

“Russia is undertaking a whole of government approach to influence the election, including the presidential, Congress and public opinion,” he said.

Moscow “determines which candidates they’re willing to support or oppose largely based on their stance toward further US aid to Ukraine and related issues,” said the official.

“It’s all the tactics we’ve seen before, primarily through social media efforts” and “using US voices to amplify their narratives”, the official added.

The Trump election campaign responded to the assessment of Russian support saying Biden was weak on Russia, as evidenced by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“When President Trump was in the Oval Office, Russia and all of America’s adversaries were deterred, because they feared how the United States would respond,” Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary, said in a statement.

The Russian embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has frequently criticised the scale of US military support for Ukraine, which stands at some $60bn since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. He has also called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “the greatest salesman ever”.

Two of Trump’s national security advisers have presented plans to end US military support to Ukraine unless Kyiv opens talks with Russia to end the war.

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