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Spy chief: Foreign actors seek to influence U.S. elections

REUTERS/CRAIG HUDSON / MAY 2
                                U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Director of Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. General Jeffrey A. Kruse testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats, at Capitol Hill in Washington.
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REUTERS/CRAIG HUDSON / MAY 2

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Director of Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. General Jeffrey A. Kruse testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats, at Capitol Hill in Washington.

REUTERS/JULIA NIKHINSON / MARCH 11 
                                U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats to American security, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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REUTERS/JULIA NIKHINSON / MARCH 11

U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats to American security, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

REUTERS/CRAIG HUDSON / MAY 2
                                U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Director of Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. General Jeffrey A. Kruse testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats, at Capitol Hill in Washington.
REUTERS/JULIA NIKHINSON / MARCH 11 
                                U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats to American security, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON >> There are an increasing number of foreign actors, including non-state actors, seeking to influence U.S. elections, and Russia, China and Iran are the most significant, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

“Specifically, Russia remains the most active foreign threat to our elections,” Haines said. “The Russian government’s goals in such influence operations tend to include eroding trust in U.S. democratic institutions, exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the United States, and degrading Western support to Ukraine.”

However, she said the U.S. government’s efforts to protect elections have improved significantly since the 2016 presidential election, and she believed the government has never been better prepared.

Congressional committees began looking into reported foreign – particularly Russian – efforts to influence American public opinion after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin had sought to boost Republican Donald Trump’s chances of winning the White House in 2016.

Moscow has denied involvement.

Wednesday’s hearing was the committee’s first open hearing on the subject of the 2024 U.S. election cycle.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s chairman, listed past foreign efforts to influence elections and public opinion, including harassment operations against candidates and impersonations of U.S. organizations, such as Russian imposter social media accounts for the Tennessee Republican party.

“We’ve witnessed increasingly large numbers of Americans – of all political stripes – who simply do not trust U.S. institutions, from federal agencies and local law enforcement to mainstream media institutions, coupled with an increased reliance on easily manipulated internet media platforms,” Warner said. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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