Sept. 17 (UPI) — Russia is again using social platforms to denigrate Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in a “very active” attempt to influence the U.S. election, FBI Director Director Christopher Wray told Congress Thursday.
Wray testified before the House homeland security committee with National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller to address “worldwide threats” to the United States.
The FBI chief told the panel the Kremlin “continues to try to influence our elections, primarily through what we call malign foreign influence.”
“We certainly have seen very active efforts by the Russians to influence our elections in 2020,” he added, saying the efforts are using social and Russian media. The Kremlin’s main goal, he noted, appears to be denigrating Biden in addition to “what the Russians see as a kind of anti-Russian establishment.”
Wray’s assessment conflicts with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed previous findings by the U.S. intelligence community that definitively said Russian efforts four years ago sought to propel him into the White House — instead of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who was widely believed to be much less friendly to Moscow.
Wray also affirmed intelligence findings last month that cautioned Russia is attempting to undermine Biden in the Nov. 3 election.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, who probed for any collusion between the Russians and Trump’s campaign, concluded early last year that Moscow worked to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor mostly through social media campaigns.
Under questioning from panel members, Wray declined to identify left-wing anarchist movement Antifa as the top U.S. domestic terror threat, as is frequently claimed by Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
“We don’t think of threats in terms of left or right,” the FBI director said. “We’re focused on the violence, not the ideology.”
Thursday’s threat assessment hearing is conducted every year and typically includes the nation’s top experts, like the FBI director and the head of the Homeland Security Department. The person who presently holds that office, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, declined to appear at the hearing.
Panel Chair Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., said Wolf was asked to testify and the department initially agreed to Thursday’s testimony date. He added, however, that Wolf eventually went back on the commitment to appear.
“It was not until last week that the department informed the committee that Mr. Wolf would be reneging on the commitment to testify,” he said in a statement.
“Faced with continued refusal … I issued a subpoena for his appearance in accordance with House and committee rules. Regrettably, he has chosen to defy the subpoena and refuses to come before the committee after committing to do so should appall every member of this committee. Insisting Mr. Wolf keeps his commitment to testifying before Congress isn’t playing politics — it’s doing our job.”