WASHINGTON - A top U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has given him no specific instructions to combat Russian meddling in the 2018 congressional elections that mirrors Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential contest aimed at helping Trump win.
“I’ve never been given any specific direction to take additional steps outside my authority,” Admiral Mike Rogers, director of both the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, told lawmakers.
“I have taken the steps within my authority, you know, trying to be a good, pro-active commander,” Rogers said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “I have not been granted any additional authorities.”
Rogers said he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay (for its U.S. election interference) and that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity.’ Clearly what we have done hasn’t been enough.”
Hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not discuss what authority Rogers was referencing, but she said Trump was looking at ways to prevent Russian meddling.
"I can tell you that we are taking a number of steps to prevent this and we are looking at a variety of other ways that we’re going to continue to implement over the coming weeks and months,” Sanders said.
Rogers’ testimony was the second time this month that top U.S. intelligence officials have said that Trump has not ordered them to take any special measures to combat interference in the November elections in the United States, when a third of the Senate seats and all 435 in the House of Representatives are being contested.
The U.S. intelligence community more than a year ago concluded that Putin personally directed a 2016 campaign to undermine U.S. democracy and help Trump defeat his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But Trump, almost on a daily basis, has disparaged investigations into allegations that his campaign colluded with Russian interests to help him win. His favorite epithet is to call the probes a “witch hunt,” which he did again Tuesday.
Congressional investigations about the Russian interference have been going for months, as has a criminal probe headed by special counsel Robert Mueller. He has secured guilty pleas from two former Trump aides for lying to investigators about their contacts with Russia.