×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
February 14, 2018

On Tuesday, the heads of the U.S. intelligence community, most of them appointed by President Trump, had a pretty sobering message. "Frankly, the United States is under attack," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States," he added. "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations."

All five other intelligence chiefs agreed, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told the BBC recently that Russia is almost certainly going to try to interfere with the 2018 election.

Not everyone's buying it. Specifically and importantly, Trump doesn't seem to buy it. The president "remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election," CNN reports, citing three people familiar with Trump's thinking. "While this issue is separate from the question of whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian officials, to Trump the issues are interwoven, the sources say. He views the notion that Russia meddled in the election as an argument that he had help to win, and that he didn't win the election on his own."

On Tuesday, some senators noted that it matters what Trump believes. "I understand the president's sensitivity about whether his campaign was in connections with the Russians, and that's a separate question," Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told the intelligence chiefs. "My problem is I talk to people in Maine who say the whole thing is a witch hunt and a hoax because 'the president told me.'" Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the Russia threat that Trump "inconceivably continues to deny" demands "a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top." When asked, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Trump had "not specifically directed" intelligence agencies to take steps to counter Russian election-meddling. Peter Weber