Russia has continued its efforts to interfere in the Western democratic processes since 2016, and it shows no signs of slowing down for the 2018 U.S. midterms, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC Monday.
The U.S. intelligence community has unanimously agreed that Kremlin-backed groups actively interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections with a misinformation campaign on social media and by hacking high-level political campaign internet communications.
“I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” Pompeo said, referring to the Russians.
But the former Kansas congressman is confident that “America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust.”
The impact of Russian activity on the 2018 midterms “won’t be great,” Pompeo said.
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The first primary of the midterms is just over a month away, March 6, in Texas.
The Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees and the House Intelligence Committee launched separate investigations last year into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
The president has grumbled about those investigations and flatly denied the notion that his 2016 electoral college victory over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was partly aided by the interference of a foreign power.
Last summer, Trump repeatedly urged top Senate Republicans, including North Carolina Sen. Richard M. Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end their investigations, The New York Times reported in November.
The president says Democratic lawmakers are pressing the point of Russian influence on the 2016 elections to discredit his presidency.
Democrats say they are trying to protect the country’s democratic processes from a foreign enemy.
“This threat existed long before President Trump took office, and unless he takes action now, it will continue long after his administration,” Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement earlier this month.
Cardin’s statement accompanied a 200-page report on how Russia, under President Vladimir Putin’s direction, honed a program to undermine democratic and economic stability in the West, including in the U.S.
“While President Trump stands practically idle, Mr. Putin continues to refine his asymmetric arsenal and look for future opportunities to disrupt governance and erode support for the democratic and international institutions that the United States and Europe have built over the last 70 years.”
Trump’s dismissal of Russian influence on U.S. elections has rankled intelligence officials who ultimately report up the chain of command to him.
That does not necessarily bother Pompeo, who briefs the president every day they are both in Washington on strategy and current affairs.
“I don’t do fine lines. I do the truth,” Pompeo said. “We deliver nearly every day personally to the president the most exquisite truth that we know from the CIA.”