Columns

Intelligence Assessment Finding Midterm Russian Campaign Op Weighed for Sanctions Consideration

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attends a cabinet meeting at the White House on Oct. 17, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The intelligence community delivered an assessment that Russia conducted a campaign influence operation during the midterm election but did not appear to directly interfere with vote counts, the director of National Intelligence said Friday.

Executive Order 13848, issued in September, states that “not later than 45 days after the conclusion of a United States election, the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the heads of any other appropriate executive departments and agencies, shall conduct an assessment of any information indicating that a foreign government, or any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign government, has acted with the intent or purpose of interfering in that election.”

“The assessment shall identify, to the maximum extent ascertainable, the nature of any foreign interference and any methods employed to execute it, the persons involved, and the foreign government or governments that authorized, directed, sponsored, or supported it.”

Recipients of the analysis, delivered Friday by DNI Dan Coats, are the president, secretary of State, secretary of the Treasury, secretary of Defense, the attorney general, and the secretary of Homeland Security.

Forty-five days after delivery of the assessment, the attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security will then have to give the president an assessment on “the extent to which any foreign interference that targeted election infrastructure materially affected the security or integrity of that infrastructure, the tabulation of votes, or the timely transmission of election results” and “if any foreign interference involved activities targeting the infrastructure of, or pertaining to, a political organization, campaign, or candidate, the extent to which such activities materially affected the security or integrity of that infrastructure, including by unauthorized access to, disclosure or threatened disclosure of, or alteration or falsification of, information or data.”

The State and Treasury departments would afterward prepare recommendations for punitive sanctions and deliver that to the president. “The recommendation shall include an assessment of the effect of the recommended sanctions on the economic and national security interests of the United States and its allies,” the order states.

Coats said that “at this time, the Intelligence Community does not have intelligence reporting that indicates any compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the ability to tally votes.”

“The activity we did see was consistent with what we shared in the weeks leading up to the election. Russia, and other foreign countries, including China and Iran, conducted influence activities and messaging campaigns targeted at the United States to promote their strategic interests,” he added.

As with their 2016 assessment of Russia’s campaign influence op, intelligence officials “did not make an assessment of the impact that these activities had on the outcome of the 2018 election.”

“The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion,” Coats stressed.

The director added that “preserving the integrity of our election systems and, more broadly, our democracy, is a top priority for the Intelligence Community.”

“We will continue to work this critical topic as we begin preparing for the 2020 elections across all relevant elements of the federal government and with our state and local election partners,” Coats said.