Russia determined to keep hacking elections, DNI Coats warns

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(Bloomberg) -- State-led Russian hackers remain a “major threat” to the U.S. government and will keep up their attacks after seeking to influence the 2016 presidential vote, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in an annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment.”

Coats, in a statement prepared for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, stood by past intelligence community assertions that only Russian officials at the highest level could have orchestrated the 2016 operation. Such “influence operations” will continue in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, he said.

“In 2017, Russia is likely to be more assertive in global affairs, more unpredictable in its approach to the United States, and more authoritarian in its approach to domestic politics,” Coats said in the statement summarizing the yearly joint report to Congress by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Coats appeared before the committee along with other intelligence agency leaders, including Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers. But much of the attention turned to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, making his first public appearance in that role since President Donald Trump fired James Comey on May 9.

Asked if he promised to inform the Intelligence Committee of any efforts to interfere in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the Russian meddling and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it, McCabe said simply, “I absolutely do.”

Read more about the acting FBI chief’s appearance at the Senate hearing

Coats’s 26-page statement offered an overview of myriad challenges facing the U.S., from high-profile concerns such as the actions of Russia, China and North Korea, to more amorphous threats like those posed by slowing global economic growth, the rise of artificial intelligence and the possibility of U.S. adversaries exploiting genome-editing.

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