Biden was wrong: Intel agencies find no evidence of ‘Russian meddling’ in Italian polls
Two Italian intelligence agencies did not find any evidence of the alleged Russian interference into last year’s constitutional reform referendum, despite conducting “attentive monitoring” of possible foreign meddling, ANSA news agency reported. The chiefs of the Internal Information and Security Agency (AISI) and the External Intelligence and Security Agency (AISE), Mario Parente and Alberto Manenti, respectively, faced the parliamentary intelligence committee this week.
The parliamentary hearings were triggered by an article by Biden, dubbed, “How to stand up to the Kremlin,” published earlier in December by the journal Foreign Affairs. Among the numerous accusations, largely repeating the mainstream media “Russian meddling” narrative, Biden claimed that Moscow interfered in the Italian Constitutional referendum and warned about alleged meddling in the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
“A Russian effort is now under way to support the nationalist Northern League and the populist Five Star Movement in Italy’s upcoming parliamentary elections,” Biden stated, without providing any proof to back up the claim. The allegations prompted an angry response from the parties accused of getting Russian support.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League (Lega Nord), said that Italy’s ruling Democratic party “lost the referendum and will lose the elections, because the Italians have good sense, and not because Putin wants it,” as quoted by La Repubblica.
The 5 Star Movement responded to Biden by stating that “we all must respect the vote” and “know how to lose.” President Barack Obama’s former deputy simply did not get over the Democrats’ defeat last year, and was seeking to blame the Russians for everything he didn’t like, the party said in a Facebook post.
“Today, Biden says it is Russia’s fault, as he says it is Russia’s fault that Trump won and his party lost. Biden goes further and says Russia is helping the 5 Star Movement. He does not provide any evidence, this is unacceptable,” the post reads. The party’s candidate for prime minister, Luigi di Maio, dismissed Biden’s allegations as “fake news,” stating that millions of Italians voted ‘No’ during the referendum on their own, without “being paid by the Russians.”
The 2016 Constitutional referendum was aimed at reorganizing the Italian Senate and redirecting more powers from the regions to central government. The reform, however, failed spectacularly, as nearly 60 percent of Italians voted against it, prompting the resignation of then-PM Matteo Renzi, who currently leads the Democratic Party.