Former top spy: Vote-rigging claims fit Russia's plan

DC: President Donald Trump walks with U.S. Attorney General William Barr, left, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, center, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley, right, and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd, on June 1 in Washington, D.C. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images/Tribune News Service

President Donald Trump is playing into Russia's hands by claiming that his political adversaries are trying to rig the U.S. election, a former senior intelligence official said.

Sue Gordon, who left the second-highest post in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence a year ago, said that the nation's election infrastructure is "as well-protected as it's ever been." She suggested that misinformation circulating on social media is at least as much of a challenge heading toward November.

Asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about Trump's unsubstantiated claim at a rally in Minden, Nevada, on Saturday night that Democrats are "trying to rig" the election, Gordon said any president has a "disproportionate responsibility" to avoid tainting the vote's integrity.

"I'm going to always hold the president more responsible than anybody else because he's, well, the president, and his voice carries further, speaks louder," Gordon said.

"And that message – that you can't trust our system, that you can't trust the vote, that you can't trust the other party, that you can't trust – is exactly what the Russians, particularly, hope to achieve," said Gordon, who's now a Microsoft Corp. consultant. "Their aim would be to sow the divisions" and dissuade Americans from voting, she said.

"But he's not the only one," she added of Trump. "When the other party says that a difference in policy means that he is malfeasant, or evil, or being controlled – that, too, is undermining it."

A Microsoft investigation published last week found that Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers have stepped up efforts to disrupt the U.S. election by targeting the campaigns of Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Cyber-attacks have also been aimed at political parties, advocacy groups, academics and leaders in the international affairs community, Tom Burt, Microsoft's vice president of customer security and trust, said in a blog post on Thursday.

While expressing confidence about U.S. election infrastructure, Gordon said "we have more work to do" to stop misinformation on social media.

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