USA officials raise alarm about election interference ahead of midterms

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USA intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, national security adviser John Bolton, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone appeared together during the White House press briefing where they said they were working with state and local election officials to protect voting systems from threats by Russian Federation and other foreign actors.

Donald Trump on Wednesday told his attorney general to end the high-profile investigation into Russian election meddling that has ensnared key members of his presidential campaign and cast a long shadow over his White House.

"We have not seen that kind of robust campaign from them so far", Coats said in a briefing at the White House.

The warning to American adversaries came as top US intelligence and homeland security officials raised alarms about potential efforts to influence the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Ms Nielsen said: "Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs".

Nakasone, who is also the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, said the command and the NSA are both tracking a wide range of foreign cyber adversaries and "are prepared to conduct operations against those actors attempting to undermine our nation's midterm elections".

Some 83 percent of respondents told Levada that they closely followed or heard about President Vladimir Putin's first sit-down meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on July 16.

Apparently we're in the same boat as the head of USA intelligence.

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Bolton said Thursday that Trump is "leading unprecedented action to punish Russia" for its efforts to disrupt American elections.

And Thursday's briefing came on the third day of the trial of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager who used to work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine and has been charged with tax and bank fraud on some of those earnings. "This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus".

The intelligence officials at the White House raised the alarm about election interference without directly undermining the president.

Questioned whether he thought Russian Federation has interfered in the United States elections, President Trump said: "I don't see any reason why it would be Russian Federation".

"Our letter to Ambassador Bolton urged him and the Trump administration to fully implement the sanctions on Russia that Congress already passed, extradite the 12 Russian government officials indicted by Special Counsel Mueller, and commit to protecting diplomats and other U.S. personnel - both past and present", a Thursday statement from the senators read.

Democrats and Republicans have lobbed criticisms at the Trump administration over their response to election interference.

Mr Trump unleashed a Twitter tirade on Wednesday as he sought to defend himself and Mr Manafort, and criticised a probe into whether his campaign team worked with Russian Federation to try and sway the result of the election two years ago.

The president also is pushing for a voter ID law. "Russians are trying to help Democrats in the 2018 elections".

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