Pence calls out Russia for 2016 meddling, backs ‘unambiguous’ intel assessment

Pence calls out Russia for 2016 meddling, backs ‘unambiguous’ intel assessment
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Vice President Pence on Tuesday called Russia out for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, describing foreign interference efforts as an “affront to our democracy” that will not be tolerated.

Pence’s fierce endorsement of the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion about Russian interference came two weeks after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE cast doubt on the judgment alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin following a meeting in Helsinki — remarks he later sought to walk back.

“While other nations certainly possess the capability, the fact is, Russia meddled in our 2016 elections. That is the unambiguous judgment of the intelligence community and as the president said, we accept the intelligence community’s conclusion,” Pence said during an address at a Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity summit in New York.

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“Russia’s goal was to sow discord and division and to weaken the American people’s faith in our democracy. And, while no actual votes were changed, any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy and it will not be allowed,” Pence continued.

Trump sparked massive scrutiny earlier in July when he said alongside Putin that he saw no reason why Russia would be responsible for the interference plot.

Trump later said he misspoke and clarified that he accepts the intelligence community’s findings, though he added, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, Facebook announced it had uncovered a new coordinated disinformation campaign on its platform that included fake groups and pages ahead of this year's midterm elections. 

Pence on Tuesday highlighted a variety of actions the Trump administration is taking to protect future elections from threats. He pointed to the FBI’s decision to stand up a foreign influence task force and Homeland Security’s efforts to work with states to ensure their election systems are secure from malicious actors. Pence said those efforts came from direct orders from President Trump.

Trump met with top officials on election security on Friday to discuss potential threats to upcoming elections and efforts to combat them.

Democrats have widely criticized the administration for not doing enough to protect against future interference, often citing Trump’s conflicting statements about Russia’s role in the 2016 influence campaign.

“The United States of America will not tolerate any foreign interference in our elections from any nation state,” Pence said Friday. “Not from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or anyone else."