The nation's top spy says Russia will attempt to undermine the 2018 midterm elections
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray will be one of six top intelligence agency heads to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee for its annual worldwide threats hearing. (Reuters) February 13 at 10:25 AM Email the author
The U.S. governmentâs top intelligence official said on Tuesday he expects Russia to continue using propaganda, false personas and other tactics to undermine the upcoming elections.
âThere should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past effortsâ to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign âas a success,â and it âviews the 2018 midterm electionsâ as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats.
Coats also called on lawmakers to take actions to shrink the size of the national debt, which he said ârepresents a dire threat to our economic and national security.â Co ats said he was concerned by a âfractiousâ partisan environment on Capitol Hill that âis threatening our ability to properly defend our nation.â
His remarks came at the beginning of the Senate Intelligence Committeeâs annual hearing on worldwide threats to national security. His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had âevery expectationâ that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.
The committeeâs Democratic vice chairman faulted the Trump administration for not preparing for potential Russian interference in the 2018 elections.Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testifying on Capitol Hill, June 7, 2017. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
âMake no mistake: This threat did not begin in 2016, and it certainly didnât end with the election,â said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). âWhat we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.â
âDespite all of this, the President inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,â Warner continued. âHe didnât increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasnât even Tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.â
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray also is appearing Tuesday morning at the hearing, where he is expected to field questions on security clearances for White House personnel and whether he remains confident in the independence of his agents.
His testimony comes as the White House is seeking to deflect criticism over its handling of a secu rity clearance for a senior aide accused of spousal abuse by saying it relies on law enforcement and intelligence agencies to run the process.
The bureau is under fire from President Trump and his GOP allies for its handling of investigations related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Hillary Clintonâs use of a private email server.
Though the Russia probe is now led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, he is using FBI agents and federal prosecutors to conduct the investigation, which began under Wrayâs predecessor in July 2016.
Democrats are expected to ask whether Wray, who in December defended his agencyâs independence and integrity before the House Judiciary Committee, is still confident that his agents are acting in an impartial manner in the Russia probe. House Republicans have said in a recently released memo that political bias at the FBI led to the use of Democratic Party-funded material in an application for a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign adviser; the release of a rebuttal memo by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee has so far been blocked by the White House, citing the need to remove classified information from it.
Mueller is examining, among other things, whether Trump or his associates coordinated with Russian officials to undermine Clintonâs White House bid and whether the president sought to obstruct the investigation.
[FBI Director defends bureauâs integrity as GOP lawmakers press him on Trump, Clinton probes]
For National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers, who will be retiring this spring, this will be his final threat hearing.
The House Intelligence Committee has canceled its annual hearing this year, an intelligence official said.