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Christopher Wray, FBI director, warns: 2020 presidential race at risk from foreign adversaries

Andrew Blake The Washington TimesApril 27, 2019

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray warned Friday that foreign adversaries such as Russia are finding new ways to interfere in the U.S. electoral process ahead of 2020.

Speaking at an event in D.C., Mr. Wray said that Russia remains “a very significant counterintelligence threat” and that Moscow has “absolutely continued” to meddle in U.S. affairs.

“On the one hand, I think enormous strides have been made since 2016 by all different federal agencies, state and local election officials, the social media companies,” Mr. Wray said an event hosted by the Council On Foreign Relations.

“But I think we recognize that our adversaries are going to keep adapting and upping their game, and so we’re very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020,” Mr. Wray continued.

Russia interfered in the 2016 race by using state-sponsored hackers, propagandists and internet “trolls” to break into computers, spread misinformation and sow divisiveness and discord on social media prior to President Trump defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, U.S. officials said.

More recently, multiple federal agencies including the FBI and Department Homeland Security issued a warning weeks before the 2018 midterm elections about efforts by Russia, China and Iran “to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies.”

Chris Krebs, a top cybersecurity official at DHS, told lawmakers last month that the 2018 midterms were “the most secure election held in the modern era in the U.S.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Wray said Friday that the use of social media, fake news, propaganda and trolls remains “pretty much unabated” and “not just an election cycle threat.”

“It’s pretty much a 365-days-a-year threat and that has absolutely continued,” Mr. Wray said.

The Department of Justice filed criminal charges last year against more than 20 Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 elections, including several alleged hackers and employees of a so-called “troll farm,” the Internet Research Agency, accused of weaponizing social media platforms.

Prosecutors later charged Elena Khusyaynova, an accountant for the agency, with allegedly meddling in the 2018 midterms.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report detailing his investigation into the 2016 race concluded that Russia interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion.”

Russian President Vladimir has denied the allegations in the past. After Mr. Mueller’s redacted report was recently made public, Mr. Putin called the probe “total nonsense aimed mainly at the domestic audience and used in the domestic political struggle in the U.S.”

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