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Top spy suggests Russia trying to sow doubt in US elections

Top spy suggests Russia trying to sow doubt in US elections
© Greg Nash

The nation’s top intelligence official is suggesting Russia could be tampering with U.S. election systems in order to create public doubt about their reliability.

“There’s a tradition in Russia of interfering in elections, their own and others,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday evening at an event hosted by the Washington Post. “So it shouldn’t come as a bit shock to people.”

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The decentralized nature of U.S. elections — which are run by multiple local and state governments instead of a single national system — makes it incredibly difficult for any hackers to substantially affect the nationwide outcome, Clapper added.

“I think probably the more likely — and I’m just surmising here — the more likely objective here would be to try to sow seeds of doubt about the efficacy and the viability and the sanctity, if I could use that word, of the whole system," he said.

The comments are among the closest senior U.S. officials have come to publicly identifying Moscow as the source of a series of cyberattacks against U.S. political and election targets.

Kremlin-backed hackers have been accused of leaking embarrassing emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as well as breaking into other political groups and election databases in Arizona and Illinois. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to step down following the hack at her institution, which came to light days before this summer’s Democratic convention.

The hacks suggest a sweeping campaign in Russia to interfere with the U.S. political system, but officials in Washington have declined to publicly blame anyone, potentially because of hesitation about how to respond. 

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Katko fends off Democratic opponent in New York race Harris County GOP chairman who made racist Facebook post resigns MORE’s presidential campaign has been pointed in accusing the hacks of being part of a Russian plot to support Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE, her Republican rival who has expressed an unusual amount of support for the Kremlin.