FBI director says Russian influence efforts are ‘very active’

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday described Russian malign influence efforts to sow discord among the American public as “very active.”

Wray was asked to directly respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election during an appearance as the Aspen Security Forum. Wray described the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling as sound, adding that Moscow “continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

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“He’s got his view,” Wray told NBC News anchor Lester Holt. “I can tell you what my view is – the intelligence community's assessment has not changed, my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

Wray’s remarks Wednesday evening follow a series of conflicting statements President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE has offered this week on Russia’s election interference. On Monday, Trump publicly cast doubt on the intelligence community’s judgment of Russian interference following a meeting with Putin – a statement he later walked back.

Other top U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE, have said that Russia continues to engage in influence operations against the United States. Officials say that the efforts do not directly appear to be focused on political campaigns, politicians, or the 2018 midterms – which Wray echoed Wednesday. 

The operations, Wray said, are “aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in this country.” 

“We haven’t seen yet an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time, but certainly other efforts – which I would call malign influence efforts – are very active and we could be just a moment away from it going to the next level,” he said. “To me, it’s a threat that we need to take extremely seriously.”

Wray was handpicked by Trump to serve as FBI director, after the president abruptly ousted James ComeyJames Brien ComeyImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Dem lawmaker: 'Quite clear' Trump committed impeachable offenses The Memo: Mueller's depictions will fuel Trump angst MORE in May 2017. Wray was confirmed by the Senate last August.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump told reporters "no" when asked by a reporter whether Russia continues to interfere in U.S. political affairs. But the White House later said that Trump was not responding to the reporter's question directly, and that he believes Moscow "would target" future U.S. elections.