At the White House press briefing room Thursday, there was a surprise showing by top U.S. intelligence and national security officials. The head of the FBI, Homeland Security, the National Security Adviser and U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats- all united in one voice.
CGTN’s Nathan King reports.
“In regards to Russia involvement in midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia, to try to undermined and divide the United States,” Coates told assembled reporters. Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary added, “We have seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians.”
A “willingness and capability” to target the U.S. November midterm elections and beyond, they say.
It’s a conclusion that their boss, the U.S. President, has had trouble agreeing with. Often conflating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election with questions about whether his 2016 win was legitimate, Donald Trump has consistently pushed back on his intelligence chiefs’ findings. Most notably on July 17 in Helsinki at the U.S.- Russia Summit where Trump seemed to publically accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of interference. Trump now famously said,
“Dan Coats came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
An uproar followed back home and shortly after arriving back Trump walked back those remarks saying
“In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,’ or ‘why it wouldn’t be Russia,” Trump said.
That didn’t convince many. But now the Trump administration says it is going to get tough on Russian interference. National security advisor John Bolton issued a letter, saying he has direct orders from the President, it reads in part:
“President Trump has not and will not tolerate interference in America’s system of representative government. He has directed a vast, government-wide effort to protect electoral procedures and processes while investigating, prosecuting, and holding accountable those who illegally attempt to interfere.”
There are still doubts however about the White House commitment to fight alleged Russian interference—especially as the U.S. President has repeatedly called the investigation into alleged Russian efforts to get him elected a “witch hunt,” insisting it should be disbanded.