FBI Director James Comey expects that Russian intelligence services will launch similar influence operations against the 2018 congressional and 2020 presidential elections after finding success in 2016.
“They’ll be back,” said Comey, who spoke Monday before the House Intelligence Committee. “They’ll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018. One of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sewed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process.”
Russian attempts to “undermine the credibility” of American democracy, as Comey described it, differed last year from past cases of Kremlin interference.
NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers, who also testified Monday alongside Comey, said that the biggest difference evident in 2016 was the leaking of documents online and the resulting spread through media channels.
“A big difference to me in the past was while there was cyber activity, you never saw — in previous elections — information being published in such a massive scale that had been physically removed both from private individuals as well as organizations associated with the democratic process, both inside the government and outside the government,” Rogers said.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence authored a declassified intelligence report in January concerning Russian hacking and influence operations aimed at the 2016 presidential election.
U.S. intelligence agencies stated in the ODNI report that Russian intelligence officials under the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin had stolen information held by U.S. political campaigns and organizations, think tanks and lobbying groups. Select information was leaked in an attempt to specifically discredit then democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the credibility of election results writ large.
Monday’s high-profile public hearing largely focused on the alleged connections between allies of President Donald Trump and the Russian government. Comey and Rogers, for their part, divulged few new details except to say that an investigation into the matter is ongoing.