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US must wage united battle against vote meddling: top prosecutor
[WASHINGTON] The US Justice Department called Thursday for a unified government approach to fighting meddling in the upcoming mid-term elections.
With the administration looking befuddled on the issue after the Helsinki summit, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appeal as he released a report from a department task force on fighting digital and cyber crime.
"So what can we do to defend our values in the face of foreign efforts to influence elections, weaken the social fabric, and turn Americans against each other?," Mr Rosenstein said at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado as he released the report.
"Like terrorism and other national security threats, the malign foreign influence threat requires a unified, strategic approach across all government agencies," he added.
His remarks came as the administration of President Donald Trump seems anything but unified on the issue of Russia and election meddling.
Mr Trump suggested at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he accepted the latter's denials of any interference in the 2016 vote.
That contradicted the conclusion of US intelligence agencies and prompted a rare public dissent from the US director of national intelligence, Dan Coats.
Mr Rosenstein echoed remarks byMr Coats and other officials that Russia remains a cyber threat to America every day, and the report, while not disclosing anything new, outlines what the FBI and other agencies are doing to get ready for the congressional elections in 2018.
"The Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election is just one tree in a growing forest," Rosenstein said.
"Russian intelligence officers did not stumble onto the ideas of hacking American computers and posting misleading messages because they had a free afternoon," he added. "It is what they do every day."