Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday issued a stern warning against foreign interference in U.S. elections, singling out Russia and promising swift retaliation against any nation that attempts to meddle in the American democratic process.
In a lengthy statement, the presumptive Democratic nominee lambasted the Trump administration for failing to take action to prevent foreign election interference, and said that he is putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments "on notice," as a matchup with President Donald Trump looms just over 100 days away.
"If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation's government," Biden wrote.
"I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators," he added, noting that the potential costs could include "financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption."
The statement aimed at Russia and other foreign governments comes just days after Biden revealed that he has been briefed by a team of experts on the topic of foreign election interference.
"We know from before and I guarantee you I know now because now I get briefings again. The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process. Fact," Biden said Friday evening at a virtual fundraiser hosted by a group of top lawyers.
"China and others are engaged as well in activities that are designed for us to lose confidence in the outcome," the former vice president, who served for multiple stints as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his 36-year career in the U.S. Senate, added.
In his statement issued on Monday, Biden wrote that he has "no desire" to escalate tensions between the U.S. and Russia, or any other country, and would prefer to work together with the nations of the world to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but warned that he would impose punishments on any nation that interferes in American democracy.
"(I)f any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs," Biden wrote.
Since his election in 2016 over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump has largely rejected the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the election to aid his candidacy, and said at a 2018 press conference along Russian President Vladimir Putin that he believes his denials that his country was involved in election meddling.
"My people came to me, (Director of National Intelligence) Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be (Russia)," Trump said at the time.
Throughout the 2020 campaign, Biden has sought to cast Trump as soft on Russia, and recently excoriated the president over reports that Russian intelligence officers offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan over the past year.
"(Trump) has cozied up to Putin from the very beginning, giving Putin a standing that he does not deserve, undercutting our alliances in Europe and other parts of the world," Biden said during a virtual fundraiser in late June.
"When I'm president, this and so many abuses will not stand. Make no mistake. I'll confront Putin. I'll strengthen NATO. I'll make clear to Putin that they'll have a price to pay for interference in our democratic processes," Biden said.
Trump has insisted he was never briefed on any alleged Russian bounty program, and the White House has maintained that the information regarding the program was not verified by U.S. intelligence agencies.
"I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level," Trump tweeted on July 1.
"No corroborating evidence to back reports." Department of Defense. Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020