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US intelligence chief says Russia, Iran sought to influence 2018 midterm voters

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, July 13, 2018. (Hudson Institute/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The top U.S. intelligence official says that Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign powers sought to influence voters in the 2018 midterm elections, but there were no signs that the results were comprised by the attempts.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on December 21 that “Russia, and other foreign countries, including China and Iran, conducted influence activities and messaging campaigns targeted at the United States to promote their strategic interests.”

He added, though, that the U.S. intelligence community’s investigations did not turn up any evidence that foreign actors managed to infiltrate election infrastructure.

“At this time, the intelligence community does not have intelligence reporting that indicates any compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the ability to tally votes.”

“Preserving the integrity of our election systems and, more broadly, our democracy, is a top priority for the intelligence community,” Coats added, saying preparations were being made to protect the 2020 elections.

The findings presented by Coats were included in a report submitted to President Donald Trump and U.S. agencies involved in election security as required by an executive order the president signed in September.

That action came after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 president election to favor Trump over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Russia has denied it meddled in the election.

In the report on the 2018 midterms, Coats said the intelligence community did not assess what the potential impact the foreign influence efforts had on the actual election results.

Commenting on the report, Senator Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that “the Russians did not go away after the 2016 election.”

“Now that the Russian playbook is out in the open, we’re going to see more and more adversaries trying to take advantage of the openness of our society to sow division and attempt to manipulate Americans,” he added.

Under the September executive order, sanctions could be imposed on anyone found to have tried to manipulate the vote.