US: Rus­sia be­hind elec­tion med­dling

Cyprus Today - - WORLD -

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity team said on Thurs­day that Rus­sia is be­hind “per­va­sive” at­tempts to in­ter­fere in up­com­ing US elec­tions, in a re­jec­tion of de­nials of med­dling that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin made di­rectly to Mr Trump.

The top aides, in­clud­ing in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor Dan Coats and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton, appeared in the White House brief­ing room to stress that a ma­jor ef­fort was un­der way to pro­tect the in­tegrity of con­gres­sional elec­tions in Novem­ber and the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“We ac­knowl­edge the threat, it is real, it is con­tin­u­ing, and we’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to have a le­git­i­mate elec­tion,” Mr Coats said, adding: “It is per­va­sive, it is on­go­ing, with the in­tent to drive a wedge and un­der­mine our demo­cratic val­ues.”

Mr Trump has voiced scep­ti­cism about Rus­sia’s role in US elec­tion med­dling, draw­ing ac­cu­sa­tions from Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike that he is ig­nor­ing a threat to Amer­i­can democ­racy.

“I have great con­fi­dence in my in­tel­li­gence peo­ple, but I will tell you that Pres­i­dent Putin was ex­tremely strong and pow­er­ful in his de­nial to­day,” Mr Trump said af­ter talks with Mr Putin in Helsinki, Fin­land, on July 16.

But Mr Coats, Mr Bolton, FBI Di­rec­tor Christopher Wray, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen and the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, Paul Naka­sone, said Rus­sia was to blame, along with other for­eign ac­tors.

Mr Coats said the Rus­sian med­dling ef­fort reached into the Krem­lin it­self. He gave no de­tails.

“Rus­sia has used nu­mer­ous ways in which they want to in­flu­ence, through me­dia, so­cial me­dia, through bots, through ac­tors that they hire, through prox­ies . . . all of the above, and po­ten­tially more,” he said.

“We also know the Rus­sians tried to hack into and steal in­for­ma­tion from can­di­dates and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials alike,” Mr Coats said, adding that Rus­sia was not the only coun­try work­ing to un­der­mine Amer­i­can elec­tions.

Three Se­nate pan­els in com­ing weeks are ex­pected to weigh bills that would tighten the se­cu­rity of US vot­ing sta­tions, which are ad­min­is­tered by the states, as well as mea­sures to pun­ish Rus­sia if it is found med­dling again in US elec­tions. State and county of­fi­cials have com­plained, how­ever, that they lack money and time to make vot­ing sys­tems more se­cure.

US of­fi­cials say the il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity in­cludes crim­i­nal ef­forts to sup­press vot­ing and pro­vide il­le­gal cam­paign fi­nanc­ing, cy­ber at­tacks against vot­ing in­fra­struc­ture, along with com­puter in­tru­sions tar­get­ing elected of­fi­cials and oth­ers. A se­nior US of­fi­cial said the Rus­sian med­dling cam­paign had ac­cel­er­ated and grown more so­phis­ti­cated since the 2016 elec­tion and was not di­rected at boost­ing one po­lit­i­cal party over an­other.

“This is about ex­ploit­ing the fault lines that ex­ist in our so­ci­ety and build­ing on what was done in 2016, and it isn’t con­fined to the in­ter­net. It in­cludes print and tele­vi­sion, as well, in some cases us­ing ex­ist­ing plat­forms that pre­date the 2016 elec­tion,” the of­fi­cial said.

From left, White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton, US Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Dan Coats and FBI Di­rec­tor Christopher Wray ar­rive to at­tend a brief­ing on elec­tion se­cu­rity in the White House on Thurs­day

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