illegally influence a US election
Here's what I wrote in an earlier post to another article about this word use:
"affect our elections" is a phrase that has many meanings, and I see Democrats here and elsewhere relying on the broadness of that phrase to muddy the conversation. A foreign actor can "affect an election" through bribery, blackmail, intimidation, and other tactics. A foreign actor can also "affect an election" by exposing the anti-democratic behaviors of trusted officials. The former describes actions that impose influence upon a process and trespass upon national sovereignty, the latter does not. Thus, casting a foreign actor as "affecting an election" has no meaning unless his actions are further qualified.
As an example, if Reporters Without Borders were to release evidence that showed anti-democratic behavior among Iranian public officials in the lead up to elections, they would also be "affecting an election" by the broad definition of that phrase, but hardly anyone would accuse RWoB of imposing themselves upon Iran, or trespassing upon their national sovereignty. In fact, I'd surmise MOST people would celebrate RWoB for having exposed such corruption.