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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"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.