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Warner criticizes Trump’s response to threat of Russian interference

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Warner criticizes Trump's response to threat of Russian interference

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says the Trump administration has failed to adequately respond to concerns over possible Russian interference in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

“I’ll give the president credit if he is at least acknowledging that Russia is a threat,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told reporters on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, what we have not seen is a whole-of-government response.”

His remarks come after Trump vowed to crack down on efforts by the Kremlin to interfere in the midterms during a press conference earlier in the day.

“You don’t want your system of votes to be compromised in any way,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. “We won’t allow that to happen. We will counteract it very strongly.”

But he continued to voice skepticism that Moscow’s efforts may have affected vote totals during the 2016 presidential election.

“The Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever,” Trump said during the press conference.

While Trump conceded that there was “certainly” meddling, he offered the caveat that “other countries, maybe other individuals,” and not just Russia, may have been involved.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) echoed the president’s comments, while highlighting his concern about Russia’s attempts worldwide to create “societal chaos.”

“I’ve said from the beginning there were no votes that were affected as best we can tell,” Burr told reporters. “There was some prodding and proving that went on at state levels.”

“But the real story has been missed and that’s the societal chaos that the Russians created in our society and it continues today. And it’s a blueprint of what they’ve done in other countries,” Burr said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee and other congressional committees are each investigating Russian election interference, in addition to the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller .

The Senate’s intelligence panel has made a point of distancing itself from its House counterpart, which has been embroiled in a nasty partisan fight centered on two competing surveillance memos. 

The intelligence community has concluded that Russia did carry out a sweeping effort to disrupt the 2016 election, but has not made a judgment about whether it affected the result. 

Trump has frequently come under fire from Democrats and others who say he has not wholeheartedly embraced the intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election.

“[E]ven when Congress acts, it seems like this administration sometimes ignores Congress’s direction,” Warner said.

Despite bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill, experts and other government officials continue to warn that Russia may seek to interfere again in the 2018 midterms, which officially kicked off Monday with the start of the Texas primaries.

Warner warned that Russia continues to use active measures to exploit division through social media, pointing to the recent gun control debate that seized the country after the deadly shooting at a high school in Florida.

“We’ve seen Russian bots and activities stirring up people on both sides of the gun debate after the shootings in Florida,” the Virginia lawmaker said.

Last month, Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations, alleging that they worked to sow discord in the U.S. and interfere in the election by waging “information warfare” through social media and other sophisticated tactics.

The special counsel is also looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Three former campaign aides, who have pled guilty to non-campaign related charges, have agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation.

Trump, who has denied any collusion, has repeatedly called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

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