Adversaries might also interfere with state and county systems that report vote tallies to sow mistrust in official results, said Bossert, who is now president of Trinity Cyber.
Bossert’s concerns stand in sharp contrast to Trump, who has largely ignored or downplayed the threat of Russian interference in the election, claiming without evidence that a greater threat is posed by domestic fraud from mail ballots.
But foreign interference would pay dividends for adversaries including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bossert said — even if it doesn’t result in corrupting the entire election process or delivering a reelection victory to Tump, which U.S. intelligence agencies say Putin prefers.
“The analysis for the Russians is win-win,” he told me. “They’ll either persuade the U.S. electorate to reelect President Trump, which President Putin views as a positive development for his interests, or they will sully or in some way undermine or discredit the incoming [Joe] Biden presidency, which is also in Putin’s interests.”
Bossert is also concerned Trump and senior officials may not be willing to level with the public if foreign interference is detected in the election.
He pointed to Trump’s admission to Bob Woodward he had intentionally downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus during its early months because he didn’t want to panic the American people.
“That’s the wrong instinct in a crisis,” he said, warning a similar move to play down election interference could have dire consequences.
“If the instinct on anybody’s part in this administration is to undersell or even mislead us about the extent of foreign intelligence operations, I think they will end up regretting it,” he said, “because the long-term effect of that will be to further erode public trust, not to further preserve it.”
Bossert has previously criticized Trump and White House officials over Trump’s urging the Ukrainian president to help dig up dirt on Biden, which led to the president’s impeachment, and over his handling of the pandemic. He previously served in the George W. Bush White House.