The Trump administration’s top spy chief quietly criticized the White House in written testimony Tuesday, warning lawmakers that U.S. allies are questioning America’s ability to keep its international commitments amid looming threats from China and Russia.
“China and Russia will seek spheres of influence and to check US. appeal and influence in their regions,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in written testimony before the Senate Intelligence committee. “Meanwhile, U.S. allies’ and partners’ uncertainty about the willingness and capability of the United States to maintain its international commitments may drive them to consider reorienting their policies, particularly regarding trade, away from Washington.”
He outlined continued malign activity by Russia, North Korea, China, and Iran, and touched especially on “the potential for surprise in the cyber realm.”
“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Coats said. “Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States.”
The U.S. intelligence community said in a report last January that the Kremlin ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 election that aimed to undermine faith in the democratic process, discredit then-candidate Hillary Clinton, and help then-candidate Trump. That campaign included hacking and targeted leaks, cyber intrusions into electoral boards, and churning out propaganda.
Trump has at times questioned that assessment and has referred to ongoing probes into election interference, which include any potential collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, as a “witch hunt.” Each of the intelligence community heads present Tuesday reaffirmed the January assessment.
Coats said that Russia views its interference in the 2016 election as a success.
“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,” he said.
Coats, CIA director Mike Pompeo, and National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers also all confirmed Tuesday that they had seen Russian influence activity in the run-up to the 2018 midterm election cycle.
The panel of intelligence chiefs also warned of the array of increasing threats from North Korea.
Pompeo and Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley stressed that Kim Jong-un’s “strategic calculus” has not changed. Pompeo said Kim continues to view nuclear weapons as necessary for the survival of his regime and as leverage for his desired ultimate reunification of the Korean peninsula.
“His strategic calculus is not changing, and we should not be misled by the events around the Olympics,” said DIA chief Ashley. “As a matter of fact, under the [Kim Jong-un] regime, you’ve seen a much more deliberate effort in terms of readiness, very different from his father. You have a million-man army. 70 percent of it is south of Pyongyang.”
Coats said he expected that Pyongyang would continue missile testing into 2018.
“North Korea will be the most volatile and confrontational WMD threat in the coming year,” he said. “In addition to its ballistic missile tests and growing number of nuclear warheads for these missiles, North Korea will continue its long-standing chemical and biological warfare programs.”
“Decision-time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respond to this,” he told lawmakers.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard