As the midterm elections approach, Russia is likely to throw more propaganda at Americans in an effort to deepen political divisions, American intelligence chiefs said.
WASHINGTON — As the midterm elections approach, Russia is likely to throw more propaganda at Americans, using people sympathetic to their messages and fake personalities on social media — many of them run by bots — to sow further political and social divisions in the United States, American intelligence chiefs said on Tuesday.
The intelligence officials offered their caution during testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats, and said that Russia believes its interference in the 2016 presidential election largely achieved its chief aim — weakening faith in the American democracy. Moscow now sees the coming Congressional elections as a chance to build on its gains, they said.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U. S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” said Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.
“Throughout the entire community we have not seen any evidence of any significant change from last year,” he added.
The warnings were striking in their contrast to President Trump’s views on Russia. He has mocked the very notion of Russian interference in the last election, and lashed out at those who have suggested otherwise. He also said that he believes denials of Russian interference issued by President Vladimir V. Putin.
American intelligence agencies sharply disagree, and their darker view of Russia’s actions was clear on Tuesday. Mr. Coats was joined at the hearing by the leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the F. B. I. and other intelligence agencies.
Russian hackers are already scanning American electoral systems, intelligence officials have said, and using bot armies to promote partisan causes on social media. Russia also appears eager to spread information — real and fake — that deepens political divisions, including purported evidence that ties Mr. Trump to Russia, and its efforts to influence the 2016 election.
“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Mr. Coats said.

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