DNI Coats: Russian Efforts to Meddle in Midterm Election Not ‘Robust’ Like 2016 Election

By Melanie Arter | August 3, 2018 | 11:22am EDT
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) - Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Thursday that Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2018 midterm election are “not the kind of robust campaign” that the intelligence community assessed in the 2016 election.

During Thursday’s White House press briefing, Coats and several other members of the administration - FBI Director Christopher Wray, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of the National Security Agency General Paul Nakasone, and National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton - were on hand to talk about the administration’s efforts to protect the midterm election from meddling.

“Director Coats, how would you characterize the current efforts -- Russian efforts -- to meddle in the 2018 election relative to 2016? Is it more intense? Do you see those efforts focused on a particular party? And, in general, is the pace of those operations in any way relative to 2014, 2012? Or is it more intense?” Daily Caller White House Correspondent Saagar Enjeti asked.

“Relative to what we have seen for the midterm elections, it is not the kind of robust campaign that we assessed in the 2016 election. We know that, through decades, Russia has tried to use its propaganda and methods to sow discord in America. However, they stepped up their game big time in 2016. We have not seen that kind of robust effort from them so far,” Coats said.

“As I mentioned publicly sometime -- just a few weeks ago, we’re only one keyboard click away from finding out something that we don’t -- haven’t seen up to this particular point in time. But right now, we have not seen that,” he said.

“To follow up sir, do you see it directed to any particular party? In its current 2018 efforts, is there any particular party that is benefitting from current 2018 Russian efforts?” Enjeti asked.

“What we see is the Russians are looking for every opportunity, regardless of party, regardless of whether or not it applies to the election, to continue their pervasive efforts to undermine our fundamental values,” Coats said.

Coats told reporters that “the intelligence community and all of its agencies are postured to identify threats of all kinds against the United States.”

“The president has specifically directed us to make the matter of election meddling and securing our election process a top priority, and we have done that, and are doing that, and will continue to do so,” he said.

“We have incorporated the lessons learned from the 2016 election and implemented a broad spectrum of actions to share more information across the federal government, as well as with state and local governments, and also with the public and the private sector. The intelligence community continues to be concerned about the threats of upcoming U.S. elections, both the midterms and the presidential elections of 2020,” Coats said.

“In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States. These efforts are not exclusive to this election or future elections, but certainly cover issues relevant to the election,” he said.

“We also know the Russians tried to hack into and steal information from candidates and government officials alike. We are aware that Russia is not the only country that has an interest in trying to influence our domestic political environment. We know there are others who have the capability and may be considering influence activities. As such, we will continue to monitor and warn of any such efforts,” the director said.

Coats said he is committed to ensuring that the intelligence community works together “in integrating across organizations and missions, and seeking greater transparency with the public.”

“The ODNI has instituted a broad spectrum of actions covering collection, analysis, reporting, education, and partnerships all designed to provide the best threat assessments to federal, state, and local officials, as well as to the public and private sector when necessary,” he said.

“For example, my office leads the interagency working group -- now meeting weekly, as a push towards November -- with the Department of Justice, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, and NSA inclusive of regional, cyber, and counterintelligence experts, all focused on ensuring election security and integration of our efforts,” Coats said.

The director said the intelligence community is focused on providing “persistent support to the FBI,” DHS, “and other agencies in their election responsibilities.” He said his office “is ensuring these organizations receive timely and proactive intelligence community support.”


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