At the White House press briefing Thursday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders brought in the big guns to address election interference, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
All of them, except for Nielsen, specifically mentioned Russia’s past and future- intended interference in U.S. elections.
- Bolton: “Since January 2017, the President has taken decisive action to defend our election systems from meddling and interference. This includes measures to heighten the security and resilience of election systems and processes, to confront Russian and other foreign malign influence in the United States, to confront such aggression through international action, and to reinforce a strong sanctions regime.”
- Coats: “In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States …We also know the Russians tried to hack into and steal information from candidates and government officials alike.”
- Wray: “As I have said consistently, Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day. This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”
Nielsen, declining to name Russia, said only: “I fully share the intelligence community’s assessments and past efforts and those today to interfere with our election and of the current threat. Our adversaries have shown they have the willingness and capability to interfere in our elections.”
To “fully share” in the intelligence agencies’ findings would be a pivot for Nielsen, who as recently as July 19 refused to confirm that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the express purpose of helping President Donald Trump win the election.
But even Nielsen’s lukewarm and vague denunciation of Russia is a step further than Trump has even taken, a President who time and time again has cast doubt on his own agencies’ findings that Russia definitely hacked the 2016 election.
When that stance got him into hot water after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he could only commit to a highly pressured walk back temporarily before muddying the waters by again expressing his unwillingness to hold the nation accountable.
Watch a clip from the press briefing below:
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) August 2, 2018