White House officials: Russian election meddling is happening again

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"Russia attempted to interfere in the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day", Wray said, but echoed Coats by saying that "we are not yet seeing the same kind of efforts to specifically target election infrastructure", only messaging efforts.

"We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russian Federation to try to weaken and divide the United States", Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said.

"These efforts are not exclusive to this election or future elections, but certainly cover issues relevant to the election".

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands ahead a meeting in Helsinki, July 16, 2018.

"In some cases they will work together and in some cases they won't", Stewart said during a forum on national security hosted by the Sutherland Institute at the Utah Army National Guard North Salt Lake Readiness Center.

USA officials say the illegal activity includes criminal efforts to suppress voting and provide illegal campaign financing, cyber attacks against voting infrastructure, along with computer intrusions targeting elected officials and others.

But Nielsen said US agencies have "seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians" to attack USA election infrastructure.

In a series of tweets that quickly sparked accusations that Mr Trump was publicly trying to pervert justice, the president decried the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller as "a disgrace". He did say that Russian Federation has tried to hack some candidates and steal their information - presumably a reference to claims by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) - but added that others have that capability as well.

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A senior US official said the Russian meddling campaign had accelerated and grown more sophisticated since the 2016 election and was not directed at boosting one political party over another. "The president has made it clear that he cares deeply about it and he expects them to do their job".

"But it's pervasive", he said.

"It is pervasive, it is ongoing, with the intent to ... drive a wedge and undermine our democratic values."

Nakasone, who is also the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, said the command and the NSA are both tracking a wide range of foreign cyber adversaries and "are prepared to conduct operations against those actors attempting to undermine our nation's midterm elections".

When it comes to electronic voting machines, DHS' Nielsen said that the focus is on helping states make sure their machines can be audited after elections.

The Senate is working on a bipartisan package backed by GOP leaders that would boost federal assistance to state and local election officials with cybersecurity guidelines, data sharing and security clearances.

"Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs", Nielsen said in an unusually stark warning.

Right before the briefing began, the White House released a letter Bolton sent to Senate Democrats about election interference.

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