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US intel chiefs unanimous that Russia is targeting 2018 elections

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday "there should be no doubt" that Russia sees the 2018 US elec...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 12:11 AM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 12:11 AM

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday "there should be no doubt" that Russia sees the 2018 US elections as a target.

Coats and the other top national security officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee that they still view Moscow as a threat to the 2018 elections, a stance that appears at odds with President Donald Trump's repeated dismissals of Russian election meddling.

"We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States," Coats said at a hearing on worldwide threats. "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations."

Tuesday's hearing touched on a wide array of threats, from North Korea to China to weapons of mass destruction. But Russia's interference into US and other elections loomed large amid the committee's investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russian officials.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's top Democrat, warned that the US was not prepared to handle the Russian threat to US elections heading into the midterms.

"We've had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter future attacks. But we still do not have a plan," Warner said.

Warner questioned Coats and the other officials testifying - CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Chris Wray, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo - about how the government was addressing the threat to both the US election systems and through social media. He asked all six of the US officials testifying to reaffirm the intelligence community's findings last year that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and that the Kremlin will continue to intervene in future elections. All said yes.

Democrats pointed to that unanimous assessment to criticize Trump for maintaining a contrasting view to his own intelligence community.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, urged the intelligence chiefs to persuade the President to accept their findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

"My problem is, I talk to people in Maine who say the whole thing is a witch hunt and a hoax 'because the President told me,'" King said. "There's no doubt, as you all have testified today, we cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, with a whole of government response when the leader of the government continues to that deny it exists."

Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, asked whether the efforts to counter Russia's election activities in 2018 had been directed by Trump.

"Not as specifically directed by the President," Wray responded.

Pompeo told the committee that the CIA had already "seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle here."

He also raised the prospect that the US could respond to election meddling with offensive cybercapabilities. "We do have some capability offensively to raise the cost for those who would dare challenge the United States' elections," Pompeo said.

Warner also questioned the government's response to the Russian social media influence efforts. Warner has been critical of the response of companies like Facebook and Twitter to the Russian activity on their social networks.

Coats responded that multiple government agencies are working on the social media effort, and they are trying to work with companies to help them address the threat. "We cannot as a government direct them what to do, but we are certainly spending every effort we can to work with them to provide some answers to this question," Coats said.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, however, took issue with Warner's assertion that the US was not prepared for Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2018 elections on social media.

Risch said that the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the intelligence community were not surprised at Russia's efforts in 2016. And he argued that the public has become more educated too.

"With all due respect to my friend from Virginia, I think the American people are ready for this," Risch said. "The American people are smart people, they realize there are people attempting to manipulate them, both domestically and foreign. And I agree with everyone on the panel this is going to go on. This is the way the Russians have done business, this is no surprise to us."

Another issue related to Russia's election interference is the US voting systems themselves. The Department of Homeland Security has said there were Russian efforts to try to hack into the voting systems in 21 states, and several lawmakers have raised concerns states and localities are unprepared for the 2018 election cycle.

"Voting begins in March, that's next month," said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. "If we're going to have any impact on securing that voting system itself, it would seem to me, we need to be acting quickly."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
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Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
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Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
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Meeker12879
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Rock7779
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Fillmore6990
Houston6984
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Pennington6478
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Murray5873
Swift5838
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Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
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Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
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Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
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Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
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