Senate Intelligence Heads Warn Russia May Try to Meddle in 2018 Elections

Drew Angerer  Getty Images

Drew Angerer Getty Images

Republican Senator Richard Burr said on Wednesday that Facebook adverts bought by Russia-linked entities targeted more than just MI and Wisconsin - two states that had been named in media reports.

After 100 thousand documents and 250 hours of testimony, the Committee is not done yet.

Warner said that the tech giants were beginning to take the issue of Russian meddling more seriously, and that they were "seeing increasing levels of cooperation".

Twitter said last week that it shared advertisements from 2016 aimed toward the USA market from three RT accounts with staff members on both the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Burr said Wednesday that the committee has not seen any evidence that the activities favored either Republicans or Democrats.

Warner said the effort by the Russians to influence the presidential election included attempts to "test the vulnerabilities" of the election systems in 21 states by "trying to open the door".

"The committee can not really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and sub-sources", Burr said.

He added that the ads "tried to create chaos [and] I would say they have been pretty darn successful".

The two lawmakers said that Russian interference not only happened in 2016 but is still happening, and it's hindering countries other than the U.S. They would not give much more information, saying that the investigation is still ongoing.

Facebook disclosed this week that 10 million of its users saw the ads before and after the election, and that most of the ads focused on "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum" like LGBT issues, immigration, and gun rights.

But content of the 3,000 Facebook adverts linked to Russian Federation will not be publicly released.

Burr and Warner said they have largely confirmed the conclusions the intelligence community reached under the Obama administration that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 United States election.

In a noteworthy aside, Burr also suggested that Senate investigators had corroborated some parts of a dossier written by a former British intelligence agent that makes damaging allegations against President Trump and his campaign.

"We have not come to any determination on collusion or Russia's preferences".

But the signal Burr gave that his committee's investigation had not found reasons to push back on the intelligence community's conclusions, which it issued in a report in January, runs counter to some doubts that President Trump and his allies have cast that Russian Federation sought to interfere in the election.

However, the Senate Judiciary Committee - which is also conducting its own Russian Federation probe - was able to interview the man who hired Mr Steele to compile the report, Glenn Simpson, behind closed doors.

Saying that collusion between Russian Federation and Trump campaign was a "concern we continue to pursue", both senators confirmed they were expanding that area of their probe while adding that Russian Federation used paid advertisements "and created false social media accounts to drive divisions".

CNN reported in early January that Trump was briefed on the dossier, which includes allegations about Trump's associates, finances and personal life, and Trump has gone on to dismiss its contents entirely as "phony".

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