WASHINGTON — On the same day that President Trump went on Twitter to renew his claim that the focus on Russian hacking was “a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election,” his two top intelligence officials told the Senate on Thursday that Russian cyberactivities were the foremost threat facing the United States and were likely to grow only more severe.
The officials delivered the warning as the nation’s intelligence agencies released their annual worldwide threat assessment, which described the Kremlin’s “aggressive cyberposture,” evidenced by “Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election.”
Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, repeated and endorsed, almost word for word, the Obama administration’s conclusion that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 U.S. election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets.”
That conclusion is widely shared among Mr. Trump’s top national security officials. The only prominent dissenter appears to be the president himself, who has continued to insist that there is no conclusive evidence pinning the cyberactivity on the Russians, though he said in an interview with NBC News, “If Russia did anything, I want to know that.”
Only a few hours after the officials’ testimony, the White House said the dismissal on Tuesday of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, should help the bureau’s investigation of the Russian hacking come to a speedy conclusion. The intelligence officials, by contrast, said the inquiries into the matter must delve deeply into the question of how to prevent future attacks.
Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the Russians and others would try to meddle again in future elections and added, “I hope we learn from it as well and will be able to more effectively defeat it.”
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