Russia still working to undermine US elections, top national security officials warn

Five of the top U.S. national security officials on Thursday unambiguously warned that Russia has undertaken efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.

At a White House press briefing, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Chris Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Gen. Paul Nakasone, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, also took turns expressing concern over ongoing efforts by Moscow to interfere in U.S. elections, with Nielsen sounding the alarm that "our democracy is in the crosshairs."

Coats told reporters that U.S. intelligence and national security officials "continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States" but that the White House had made it a "top priority" to combat such interference.

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Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted in Mueller probe
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after the indictments were filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�n Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein departs a news conference after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
The U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building is seen after Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after being filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as he appears with Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O?Callaghan during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein takes questions after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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"We are doing everything we can to have a legitimate election," he said.

At the same time, Coats admitted he still did not know what was discussed by President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a controversial private meeting they held in Helsinki, Finland earlier this month.

"I'm not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki," he said.

At a joint press conference after the private meeting, Trump suggested that Putin was more credible than his own intelligence officials, including Coats, who has accused Russia of undertaking an "unprecedented influence campaign" in 2016.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that "there are others," in addition to Russia, "that are considering making attempts" in interfere in the midterm elections.

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