A top federal prosecutor alerted Congress to the risk of California election interference by the Chinese Communist Party as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) met with CCP officials during his visit to Beijing last week.
During a closed-door October 24 meeting with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada warned that China is “trying to influence our elections,” Politico reported.
“We’re the gateway to Asia, and we have the People’s Republic of China trying to influence our elections, trying to target some of our individuals,” Estrada said, according to a transcript obtained by the outlet.
“In the interview, Estrada did not elaborate further on China’s influence efforts, and a spokesperson for his office declined to comment for this story,” they reported.
Estrada is a Biden appointee who serves as the top federal prosecutor in California’s central district, which contains the city of Los Angeles. His warning came as “California government officials have had heightened concerns about China’s interference in the state’s elections” in recent months, the publication reported of an anonymous state official’s beliefs.
The attorney’s comment was made just one day before Newsom became the first American governor in four years to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Newsom has been dragged by fellow politicians and media figureheads for the trip to China, with one U.S. representative saying the governor did it as part of a “shadow campaign for president.”
“The track record is not good for him to be gallivanting around the world doing basically a shadow campaign for president, just waiting for the moment when they finally decide to throw Biden under the bus,” Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) told Fox News.
“Governor Newsom is more interested in promoting Chinese companies than American,” he said on Wednesday.
“Any of you still think he isn’t running for POTUS?,” former Republican congressional candidate Robby Starbuck said on X.
Gavin Newsom is in China meeting with Xi today. He was in Israel last week. Any of you still think he isn’t running for POTUS? pic.twitter.com/V2Vc5dp4U7
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 25, 2023
Newsom’s main purported reason for meeting with CCP officials was to discuss climate change, and his administration says he did not bring up election interference during the visit.
An aide to California Secretary of State Shirley Weber told Politico that the state’s elections office has been fortifying their elections systems and attempting to quell disinformation for years in an approach “based on our own concerns and at the advice of U.S. security agencies.”
“These efforts are in response to a number of identified foreign threats, including from Russia, Iran and China, as well as from emerging domestic bad actors,” Joe Kocurek, a deputy secretary in Weber’s office, said.
Despite admitting that China has been categorized as a “foreign threat” in regards to election interference within the state, Newsom did not discuss the issue when talking with the CCP.
“There were issues the Biden administration did want us to raise, and this was not one of them,” said Anthony York, an adviser to the governor.