Against the backdrop of an ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any possible ties to the Trump Campaign, top U.S. intelligence officials joined Tuesday on Capitol Hill to once more warn lawmakers that Moscow will try to again stir trouble with the 2018 and 2020 elections.
“Any elections that are coming up, we need to assume there might be interference with that, particularly from the Russians,” said Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Coats added.
At a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, other U.S. Intelligence officials agreed that Russian propaganda efforts will be underway in 2018.
“Yes, we have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle here,” said CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo told Senators there was a “significant effort” to push back against any Russian threat, but when Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) pressed the intelligence chiefs about whether the President had specifically directed to combat interference by Moscow, there were only general responses.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), said his panel would be issuing a series of reports in coming weeks on what happened in 2016.
“Before the primaries begin, we intend to have an overview of our findings that will be public,” Burr announced, saying his panel would hold an open hearing on election security in 2018.
Burr also made clear the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee continues on one of the central issues of 2016 – how did the Russians interfere, and did they have any accomplices within the United States.
“We will continue to work towards conclusions related to any cooperation or collusion by any individual, campaign, or company, with efforts to influence the outcome of elections or to create societal chaos in the United States,” Burr said.
“We realize we have to answer for the American people, what did Russia do to mess with the 2016 elections,” he added.
Earlier in the hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked about a GOP memo written by members of the House Intelligence Committee, which was publicly released earlier this month – Wray again said he had “grave concerns” about the document, saying that evidence had been omitted from the Republican memo.
“We had then, and we continue to have now “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the memo because of omissions,” Wray explained.