FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday said Russia continues to actively sow discord in America.
"He's got his view," Wray told NBC News anchor Lester Holt when he was asked to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "I can tell you what my view is – the intelligence community's assessment has not changed, my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day."
His comments at the Aspen Security Forum came two days after President Donald Trump made the controversial statement he believed Putin over U.S. intelligence officials on the subject of Russian interference in the election.
Trump sparked outrage when, during a joint press conference in Finland following his private, two-hour meeting with Putin, he said: "I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."
After being slammed by Democrats and Republicans, Trump backtracked and said he misspoke and meant to say, "wouldn't" instead of "would."
Wray said Russia's operations are "aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in this country."
"We haven't seen yet an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time, but certainly other efforts – which I would call malign influence efforts – are very active, and we could be just a moment away from it going to the next level," he said. "To me, it's a threat that we need to take extremely seriously."
Wray, during his appearance, also laughed off the idea of Russia being allowed to question U.S. citizens, an offer Putin presented to Trump during the summit. Trump is said to be considering allowing Russian investigators to question U.S.-born investor Bill Browder, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and others after Putin floated the idea.
"He said it was an interesting idea; he didn't commit to anything," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. "He wants to work with his team and determine if there's any validity that would be helpful to the process . . . It was an idea they threw out."
Wray said the tactic was "not high on our list of investigative techniques," prompting laughter and cheers.
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