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FBI director: Russia is the 'most aggressive actor' in election interference

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that Russia was engaging in real-time "malign influence operations" agai...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 2:20 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 2:20 PM

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that Russia was engaging in real-time "malign influence operations" against the United States and called the country the "most aggressive actor" in the space of election interference. The wide-ranging interview at times placed him in contrast with the President, who spent the week waffling on rhetoric to describe Russia's threat.

Speaking with NBC News anchor Lester Holt at a national security forum in Aspen, Colorado, Wray said the Russian operations were "very active" and "aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in this country."

Wray also said that his "view has not changed" on the fact, established by the 2017 intelligence community assessment, that "Russia attempted to interfere with the last election."

Nearly one year into his tenure as President Donald Trump's hand-picked FBI chief, Wray's remarks were a stark staking of claim on territory that Trump has consistently muddied.

On Monday, Trump cast doubt on the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference in a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and earlier on Wednesday appeared to suggest he did not believe Russian measures against American democracy were ongoing.

Trump and his press secretary Sarah Sanders have since attempted to clean up both comments, claiming semantic mistakes and misunderstandings. Trump also told CBS News Wednesday that he "accepts" the US intelligence assessment that Russia continues to target the United States.

In his interview, Wray said that the intelligence community has not observed an effort by Russia to target specific election infrastructure as it did in 2016, but "we could just be a moment away from it going to the next level."

"To me, it's a threat that we need to take extremely seriously and respond to with fierce determination and focus," Wray said. He added that the FBI was "looking at ways to increase awareness" around disinformation campaigns and suggested the American public think "critically about what is this I'm reading."

With a characteristic calm, Wray spent much of the hour-long sit-down answering questions about the controversies that have plagued the bureau in the past year.

He called special counsel Robert Mueller a "straight shooter" and declined to push back directly on criticisms levied against the FBI by Trump, instead reiterating a strong defense of the bureau's work.

Wray did, however, offer a rebuttal to some Republican lawmakers who called for action against disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok, whose anti-Trump messages were a central focus of a stinging report released earlier this year by the Justice Department's watchdog office.

"I'm not going to make decisions based on yelling and screaming. I'm going to make decisions based on the process," he said, adding that it was "very, very important" to allow for the internal FBI disciplinary procedures to proceed.

Conservative House members have also proved a thorn in the FBI's side in recent months as they've ratcheted up demands for documents about Strzok and other decisions made by bureau officials as they investigated Hillary Clinton's email server and potential collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.

Wray acknowledged a "tension" surrounding congressional oversight of the FBI and said he would be "unwilling to budge on talking about ongoing investigations and protecting sources and methods."

"There will always be somebody who says 'no, no, no, this one is special, this one is different, this is a unicorn, we should do it this time,'" Wray said. "Those are precisely the times when it's important to do it by the book and stay consistent with precedent."

Asked if he had ever threatened to resign at points throughout his dramatic year, as CNN and other news outlets have reported, Wray joked: "I'm a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 297581

Reported Deaths: 6808
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19829231
Hinds18966395
Harrison16899283
Rankin12851265
Jackson12754234
Lee9722163
Madison9522204
Jones8042148
Forrest7295138
Lauderdale6879228
Lowndes6062140
Lamar593982
Lafayette5768114
Washington5235130
Bolivar4632124
Oktibbeha443295
Panola433798
Pearl River4219132
Warren4145115
Pontotoc411071
Marshall406595
Monroe3998129
Union397074
Neshoba3857171
Lincoln3630104
Hancock353378
Leflore3402122
Sunflower321386
Tate304674
Pike302797
Scott296771
Alcorn292763
Yazoo292266
Itawamba290775
Coahoma283169
Tippah280265
Copiah280159
Simpson277881
Prentiss271258
Marion258878
Wayne255741
Leake254572
Covington250480
Grenada248978
Adams235978
Newton233353
George232845
Winston222579
Jasper214545
Tishomingo213266
Attala210571
Chickasaw202054
Holmes183470
Clay179452
Stone173529
Tallahatchie171839
Clarke170773
Calhoun158728
Smith154333
Yalobusha146036
Greene128133
Walthall125441
Montgomery123540
Noxubee123431
Perry123335
Lawrence121621
Carroll119725
Amite112435
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102931
Tunica99824
Claiborne99130
Benton94024
Humphreys93128
Kemper91523
Quitman77514
Franklin76520
Choctaw70317
Jefferson62927
Wilkinson62727
Sharkey49217
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
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