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On Tuesday, the heads of the various intelligence agencies made their annual appearance before the Senate to discuss threats to the nation. The dominant headlines that resulted from this appearance came after FBI Director Christopher Wray didn’t just chip away at the White House story concerning Rob Porter. He flattened it.

What should have been an embarrassing but relatively minor incident has turned into an ongoing showcase of misogyny and failed excuses simply because this White House seems incapable of telling the truth on any point, at any time. But the attention given the Porter story threatens to swap the primary topic of the nation’s intelligence briefing—confirmation that Russia not only interfered heavily in the 2016 election, but that they’ve never stopped interfering in our national politics since then, and intend to ramp up their efforts for the 2018 election.

Russia is already meddling in the midterm elections this year, the top American intelligence officials said on Tuesday, warning that Moscow is using a digital strategy to worsen the country’s political and social divisions. …

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee at its annual hearing on worldwide threats.

In searching for a sympathetic spokesperson, Russia doesn’t have to look very hard.

President Donald Trump still isn’t buying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018, three sources familiar with the President’s thinking say he remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election.

Trump continues to deny any allegation that Russia had an involvement in the 2016 election because he sees it as a claim that his election was illegitimate. But that’s not really important—because his election was illegitimate for plenty of other reasons.

Multiple analysis have indicated that the public announcement that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just ten days before the election, and the media firestorm around that news, was more than sufficient to account for enough votes to have turned the election.

But Trump certainly had plenty of Russian assistance. From false flag stories spread by social media, propaganda sites disguised as news linked into both stories and ads, and thousands of Russian social media bots pushing these stories, Trump had the full power of advanced social media sites and targeted advertising working to pry away voters in the most critical areas of critical states.

And that’s on top of the little matter of Russian hackers stealing tens of thousands of private emails, and pushing them out to the public through Wikileaks in stacks deliberately arranged to best benefit Trump.

As noted on Tuesday by independent Senator Angus King, Trump’s continued scorn makes it impossible for him to convince his constituents of the critical threat to the nation. Likewise, the intelligence chiefs admitted that they had no directive from the White House to take any concerted action to stop Russian interference.

“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,” said Mr. Coats, testifying alongside Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director; Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director; and other leading intelligence officials

The Trump White House continues to be in a frump Wednesday morning over their inability to sell a simple lie, and as the timing of the intelligence review revealed efforts to blame the FBI for the Porter fiasco as another of Trump’s clumsy cover-ups. But while the press has followed-up on that story and generated a furor that may end with more White House departures, the story of the nation’s threatened elections continues to be treated as a political story, rather than a national security threat.

The warnings were striking in their contrast to President Trump’s public comments. He has mocked the very notion of Russian meddling in the last election and lashed out at those who suggested otherwise.

Mr. Trump has not directed his intelligence officials to specifically combat Russian interference, they said. But Mr. Pompeo said that the president has made clear that the C.I.A. has “an obligation, from the foreign intelligence perspective, to do everything we can to make sure there’s a deep and thorough understanding of every threat, including threats from Russia.”

At some point, pretending ignorance goes from passive negligence to active participation. Trump has long passed that point.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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