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CIA chief: Russia will be back for the midterms

“I haven't seen a significant decrease in their activity.”
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CIA chief Mike Pompeo said Monday he fully expects Russia to try to disrupt November’s midterm elections, a message completely at odds with the White House’s claim that further sanctions against Moscow are not necessary.

Speaking to the BBC on his one-year anniversary as CIA director, Pompeo said Russia continues to interfere in U.S. domestic politics and he had “every expectation” the Kremlin would target the midterms.


“I haven't seen a significant decrease in their activity,” he said.

The White House said Monday it would not impose a new round of sanctions ordered by Congress on individuals and groups associated with the Kremlin over election-meddling, claiming existing legislation was acting as an effective deterrent.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which called for a report identifying wealthy Russians linked to President Vladimir Putin, had already proven enough of a threat to prevent foreign governments from making an estimated several billion dollars worth of defense purchases from Russia. This made a proposed second round of sanctions – the deadline for which was Monday – unnecessary, she said.

The decision means the sanctions against Russia fall short of the tough measures many in Congress envisaged when they passed the law last summer. Donald Trump described the bill as “seriously flawed” when he reluctantly passed the law, which had broad bipartisan support in Congress, in August.

Prior to Nauert’s announcement Monday, Russia had bridled at the prospect of further U.S. sanctions, calling them a “direct and obvious attempt” to interfere with their own elections. Putin said he was “sad” he hadn’t made it on to the list of potentially sanctioned individuals himself.

Although wary of Moscow efforts, Pompeo told the BBC he had faith in his country’s ability to ward off attempts to interfere in November’s vote.


“I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I'm confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won't be great.”

The CIA director brushed off a question of whether he had to tread a “fine line” in discussing the Russian question with a president whose public denial of the threat puts him at odds with the intelligence community.

“I don't do fine lines. I do the truth,” he said. “We deliver nearly every day personally to the president the most exquisite truth that we know from the CIA.”

He also rejected the suggestion that Donald Trump wasn’t equipped to lead the country.

“The claim that the president isn't engaged and doesn't have a grasp on these important issues is dangerous and false.”

Cover image: CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at an event marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Office of Strategic Services June 16, 2017 in Washington, DC (Win McNamee/Getty Images)