US President Donald Trump has warned to react “very strongly” to any alleged Russian meddling in this year’s midterm congressional elections.
Trump said on Tuesday that there was interference by Russia and probably by other countries in the 2016 US presidential election, but added that Washington would counteract any attempt at meddling in the November midterm elections.
“Well the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever, but certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals,” the US president said at a news conference in the White House. “We’re doing a very, very deep study and we’re coming out with some very strong suggestions on the 2018 election … We’ll counteract whatever they do, we’ll counteract it very strongly.”
The US midterm elections are scheduled to be held on November 6, 2018, in the middle of the Republican incumbent’s term.
All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. Thirty-nine state and territorial governorships and numerous other state and local elections will also be contested.
Trump has faced criticism over not doing enough to counter Russia as top US intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that Moscow will once again try to disrupt US elections again this year.
US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats claimed last month that Russia viewed the 2018 midterm congressional elections as “potential target,” and might try to influence or undermine them.
“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Coats said.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” he added, making an implicit reference to previous claims of the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
US intelligence agencies claim Russia-linked hackers provided WikiLeaks with damaging information — in the form of thousands of hacked emails — about former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to skew the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump.
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and has condemned the investigations. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also denied the allegations.