WASHINGTON- President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the U.S. is working to counteract any Russian attempts to meddle in the 2018 and 2020 elections, adding that “high-complex computers” should be replaced with a more traditional paper ballot system.
Trump maintained that Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election “had no impact on our votes whatsoever,”at a White House press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. And the president did not mention any attempt by the administration to punish Russia for its actions in 2016 with additional sanctions.
However, after more than a year of raising doubts about national security experts’ assertions that Russia interfered in his 2016 presidential battle with Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters that “certainly there was meddling” and that the government must be on guard to prevent future foreign interference.
“I think you have to be really watching very closely,” Trump said. “We won’t allow that to happen. We’re doing a very, very deep tudy, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.”
Trump said that in the upcoming mid-term elections, states should utilize voting systems with paper backups, which he characterized as “old fashioned, but it’s always good.”
Meanwhile, director of national intelligence Daniel R. Coats said while the U.S. doesn’t have an offensive plan in place, the White House is actively engaged in addressing the continuing attempts by Russians to influence upcoming U.S. elections.
During a Senate hearing yesterday, Coats said he could only discuss the details of “ongoing talks” in a classified setting after lawmakers repeatedly asked if the Trump administration has given an explicit directive to intelligence agencies to directly respond to Russian interference.
According to media reports, Trump has yet to hold a meeting with his Cabinet or high level intelligence officials about ways to combat Russian interference in the U.S. political process.
Coats said the White House is well aware of “ongoing efforts of Russians to interfere with our election,” and considers it a high priority.
National Security Agency (NSA) director Mike Rogers warned lawmakers last week that Russia would continue to conduct cyber operations similar to the 2016 election interference “if we don’t change the dynamic here.”
Rogers — who also serves as the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and the Chief of the Central Security Service — agreed with the Defense Science Board’s report that “for at least the next decade, the offensive cyber capabilities of our most capable adversaries are likely to far exceed the United States’ ability to defend key critical infrastructures.”
Rogers added that Russia has not “paid a price at least that’s sufficient” to deter future intervention in U.S. elections.
Executives of Facebook and Twitter, the major social media platforms Russian bots used during the election, have testified in Congress on several occasions about what they’re doing internally to disrupt the spread of misinformation by fake accounts created by Russian operatives.
Outside his current scope of authority, Rogers has not been directed by the Trump administration to take additional steps to punish Russia for their previous actions or to deter them from taking similar actions in the future.
Rogers said he needs specific authority and directions from the president to disrupt Russian influence operations in cyberspace.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “nobody is denying him the authority” during a White House press conference, adding that the Trump administration is exploring different ways to put pressure on Russia.
The list of major adversaries aggressively conducting malicious activities and making significant economic investments in cyberspace has grown to include China, Iran, and North Korea.
Rogers said the measures taken by the U.S. government; including the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities by special counsel Rob Mueller has been inadequate in deterring Russia.
“My concern is I believe that president Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here.”