Russian election interference has not stopped and Moscow can be expected to meddle in the 2018 US vote, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said in an interview released Monday.
“I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” Pompeo told the BBC of the Russians.
“I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election (and) that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.”
The leading US intelligence agencies concluded at the end of 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed a broad intelligence effort to influence the presidential election that year to undermine the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump’s chances.
That effort included hacking and releasing emails and documents from the Clinton campaign, filling social media with posts and “news” items aimed at discrediting her, as well as targeted voter-registration operations and election databases.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea that Moscow helped him — and allegations his campaign colluded with the Russians — as “fake news.”
Pompeo, whom Trump appointed to the US spy agency, has deftly avoided that controversy while emphasizing he accepts the conclusions of his predecessor.
– ‘Transparently cynical’ –
His interview came on the same day the Trump administration declined to impose new sanctions on Russia, the FBI’s number two stepped down after being involved in a probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and a Republican-led panel voted to release a memo claiming FBI abuses in the investigation.
Trump has accused Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, of being a Democratic partisan.
In a party-line vote, the House Intelligence Committee voted to make publicly available a Republican-drafted classified memo that reportedly says the FBI abused a surveillance law when it used an opposition research dossier on Trump’s Russia ties as part of its probe.
But the panel also voted against releasing a competing memo written by Democrats.
The president now has five days to allow or object to releasing the Republican memo.
“Committee Republicans JUST voted to declassify their spin ‘memo’ and prohibit release of the Democratic response in what they claimed was ‘the interests of full transparency,'” the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff, tweeted.
“It was transparent alright — transparently cynical and destructive.”
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is believed to be focusing on whether Trump illegally interfered with the Russia investigation, particularly when he fired FBI director James Comey last year.
Mueller, himself a former FBI director, is also examining the extent of communications between Russians and Trump campaign officials.
Three congressional committees have also been probing Russian meddling in US politics, though they come at a time of a toxic political environment in a sharply divided Congress