Intelligence officials say Russia intent on disrupting future U.S. elections

The Trump administration’s top intelligence officials said during a Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday that Russia is intent on disrupting elections in the United States and elsewhere.

President Donald Trump is facing sharp criticism for failing to act decisively to head off potential attempts by Russia to interfere in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.

Here are key moments from the hearing with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and others:

The intelligence community believes Russia will keep spreading false information, according to a written statement by Coats at the hearing.

"At a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States," he said.

“There’s no single agency, quote, in charge" of addressing the problem, Coats said.

"Several throughout the federal government have equities in this," he said. "It’s clearly something that needs to be addressed, and addressed as quickly as possible.”

Coats said the government’s ability to force changes at social media companies, which have come under scrutiny over the spread of false information, is limited. “We cannot as a government direct them what to do,” he said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) skewered Trump for not addressing the threat Russian hackers pose to future U.S. elections.

"We’ve had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter future attacks. But we still do not have a plan," the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said in his opening statement.

"The president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia," Warner said. "He didn’t increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn’t even Tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top."

Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) disputed Warner’s assessment that the U.S. was no better prepared now than in 2016 for Russian election meddling.

“I would respectfully disagree,” Risch said. “I think the American people are ready for this. I think they’re going to look askance a lot more at the information that’s attempted to be passed in social media…The American people are smart people. They realize there are people trying to manipulate them.”

Kyle Cheney, Martin Matishak and Ayanna Alexander contributed to this report.


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