The connectionU.S. national security leaders on Russia’s attacks: “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs”

In joint press briefing in the White House on Thursday, the leaders of U.S. intelligence and national security offered a detailed and disturbing picture of Russia’s on-going meddling in U.S. politics, and the efforts by government hackers and disinformation specialists to shape the outcome of the 2018 congressional midterms . Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Russia is engaging in “pervasive messaging campaign to try to weaken and divide the United States.” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs.” President Donald Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania a few hours after the briefing at the White House, dismissed the judgement of the U.S. intelligence and national security leaders. “In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We everything,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd. “We got along really well… Now, we are being hindered by the Russian hoax. It’s a hoax, okay?”

In joint press briefing in the White House on Thursday, the leaders of U.S. intelligence and national security offered a detailed and disturbing picture of Russia’s on-going meddling in U.S. politics, and the efforts by Russian government hackers and disinformation specialists to shape the outcome of the 2018 congressional midterms elections.

A couple of weeks ago, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that the United States digital infrastructure “is literally under attack” by the Russian government. He compared today’s warning indicators related to Russian to the warning indicators in the run-up to 9/11. “It was in the months prior to September 2001, when according to then-CIA director George Tenet, the system was blinking red,” he said. “And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again.”

He added: “These actions are persistent, they’re pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not” (see “U.S. intel chief on Russia’s unrelenting cyberattacks: ‘The warning lights are blinking red’,” HSNW, 16 July 2018).

Yesterday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen echoed Coat’s warning, saying: “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy.”

But President Donald Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a few hours after the press briefing at the White House, dismissed the judgement of the U.S. intelligence and national security leaders. He told the rally attendees:

“In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd. “We got along really well. By the way, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. That’s a really good thing. Now, we are being hindered by the Russian hoax. It’s a hoax, okay?”

White House press conference
Participants in the White House Thursday’s press briefing included National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and National Security Agency Director and Cyber Chief General Paul Nakasone.



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