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 TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall 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 CoatsOvernight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall Is Putin attacking Sanders, Harris and Warren to help Trump? Dems demand briefing, intel on North Korea nuclear talks 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 ComeyRosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it 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.