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Trump officials vow to fight Russian election interference – ‘Democracy in the crosshairs’

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks on Russian interference at a White House press briefing. August 2, 2018. (CNN/YouTube)
August 03, 2018

National security and intelligence officials spoke at a White House press briefing Thursday on the cybersecurity threats stemming from Russia.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said: “We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States,” CNN reported.

“The President has specifically directed us to make the matter of election meddling and securing our election process a top priority,” Coats said, adding that intelligence officials are concerned of potential threats to upcoming elections in the U.S.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone and National Security Adviser John Bolton also spoke at the briefing.

“A single attack can have widespread and cascading consequences… It’s not just risk to prosperity, privacy, and infrastructure,” Nielsen said. “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.”

“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and it has become clear that they are the target of our adversaries who seek… to sow discord and undermine our way of life,” Nielsen said, according to Daily Beast.

Nakasone said the intelligence agencies are comprised of trained and capable individuals who are “prepared to conduct cyber operations against… actors attempting to undermine [the] nation’s midterm elections.”

Bolton added that President Trump is employing “decisive action” against threats of foreign interference in the electoral system, adding that national security meetings led by the President are held regularly to discuss the issue.

The comments come just weeks after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian officers for their hacking efforts in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Although no evidence was found to indicate the hackers had influenced the outcome of the election, their wide array of charges – including hacking, identity theft, money laundering and fraud – paved way for concerns on the security of the electoral system.

“We are aware that Russia is not the only country that has an interest in trying to influence our domestic political environment,” Coats said.

“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,” he added.

Coats said the intelligence community is working together in sharing information and support in order to maintain election security. This adds to the Trump Administration’s overall increased effort in addressing the Russian threat since President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.