Aspen, Colorado — FBI Director Chris Wray pushed back against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday night, and –– in a significant departure in tone from President Donald Trump –– unequivocally supported the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
“He’s got his view, he’s expressed his view, and I’ll tell you what my view is: The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed, and my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election,” Wray said in a question-and-answer session at the Aspen Security Forum. “They are engaged in foreign influence operations to this day.”
“And aimed at our political system?” asked NBC’s Lester Holt, who hosted Wray for the question-and-answer session.
“Aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in this country,” Wray replied. “We haven’t yet seen an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time, but certainly other efforts, what I would call more influence operations, are very active and could be just a moment away from it going to the next level. To me, it's a threat we need to take very seriously and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”
He went on: “What they will do is they will identify issues and through a variety of means, some overt, some covert, some through fake news, some through propaganda, will essentially sow divisiveness, spin people up on both sides of the issue and then kind of watch us go at each other.”
The question of Russian influence became particularly hot last week when Trump appeared to entertain Putin’s assertion that Russia didn’t actually interfere in the 2016 campaign. The president later tried to walk back those remarks, causing even more confusion.