Saturday 19 January 2019

CIA says Russia will target the US mid-term elections

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Rob Crilly

The Trump administration has stopped short of imposing fresh sanctions on Russia as punishment for its election meddling, providing further ammunition for critics who say the White House colluded with the Kremlin.

The announcement came soon after the director of the CIA warned that Russia would interfere in this year's mid-term elections.

Last year, Democrats and Republicans passed a bill authorising the administration to use sanctions both to punish Moscow and to prevent future meddling.

Congress set a January 29 deadline to introduce measures or explain why it had not done so.

On Monday evening, Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman, indicated that the mere threat of sanctions had been sufficient and that no further action was needed.

"Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defence sales," she said.

"Since the enactment of the ... legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defence acquisitions."

The statement sparked immediate anger that Mr Trump was either hiding something or failing to take the threat seriously.

Mr Trump has repeatedly played down allegations - backed by his own intelligence agencies - that Russia interfered in the last election to sway the result in his favour.

On the same day, Andrew McCabe stepped down as deputy director of the FBI, as Mr Trump and other Republicans keep up pressure on federal agencies that they believe are biased against them.

And Republicans on the House intelligence committee voted to release a classified memo they wrote, alleging that the FBI and the US Justice Department used government surveillance during the investigation into Russian interference.

Taken together, Mr Trump's critics said the developments amounted to a serious threat to democracy.

The ongoing danger was spelled out earlier in the day by Mike Pompeo, the CIA director.

In an interview with the BBC, he said Russia remained an adversary and was likely planning to target US mid-term elections in November.

The administration did, however, release a list of Russian politicians and business figures in an attempt to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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