Russia is actively using fake news and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, much like during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Mr. Wray accused of Moscow of continued meddling after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday denied authorizing a campaign against the last White House race.
“He’s got his view,” Mr. Wray said during a discussion moderated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt. “My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”
Russia is “absolutely” still mounting efforts “aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in this country,” Mr. Wray reiterated.
“What they will do is identify a decisive issue and through a variety of means —some overt, some covert, some through fake news, some through propaganda — will essentially sow decisiveness, spin people up on both sides of the issue, and then kind of watch us go at each other,” Mr. Wray added.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded back in the Obama administration that Mr. Putin authorized a campaign targeting the 2016 election and particularly Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Department of Justice under President Trump has subsequently brought criminal charges against more than two dozen Russians accused of interfering in the race, including 12 military officials indicted last week in connection with allegedly hacking targets including the Democratic National Committee, Mrs. Clinton’s former campaign chairman, the website of a state election board and a company that manufactures voting software.
“We haven’t yet seen an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time, but certainly other efforts, what I would call malign influence operations, are very active, and we could be just a moment away from going to the next level,” Mr. Wray said Wednesday. “And so to me it’s a threat that we need to take extremely seriously and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”
Mr. Putin denied authorizing the attacks as recently as Monday this week during a press conference held following his one-on-one meeting with Mr. Trump in Helsinki, Finland, notwithstanding the conclusion reached by U.S. intelligence officials and cybersecurity professionals. Mr. Trump failed to confront Mr. Putin during the summit with respect to Russia’s alleged election meddling, prompting condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike in the days since.
Mr. Trump later answered “no” on Wednesday when asked by a reporter if Russia is still attacking U.S. targets. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said that Mr. Trump was saying “no” to answering questions from journalists.
• Andrew Blake can be reached at email@example.com.
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