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The joint appearance by Coats, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, national security advisor John Bolton, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone comes as the administration faces criticism over its efforts to deal with election interference and continuing questions over how seriously President Trump takes the threat. During an interview Monday July 23, 2018, Palazchenko declined to call the latest Helsinki meeting between US President Trump and Russian President Putin an outright failure, but said there seems a lack of clarity on exactly what the two agreed on.

"What we are seeing are the malign influence operations", Wray said.

The FBI had tracked "criminal efforts to suppress voting and provide illegal campaign financing, cyberattacks against voting infrastructure along with computer intrusions..."

The US government on Thursday accused Russian Federation of carrying out a "pervasive" campaign to influence public opinion and elections, in a warning just months before crucial legislative polls.

'We see Russians are looking for every opportunity, regardless of party, regardless of whether or not it applies to the election to continue their pervasive efforts to undermined the fundamental values, ' Coats said.

"Our democracy is in the crosshairs", Ms Nielsen said, adding that the cyberthreat now exceeded the danger of a physical attack against the USA by a hostile foreign group.

The national security adviser, a longtime Russian Federation hawk, also defended the president's much-maligned press conference after his tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, when Trump did not address Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland responded to Bolton's letter with a letter of their own. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said last week the Kremlin unsuccessfully tried to hack into her accounts.

USA officials say the illegal activity includes criminal efforts to suppress voting and provide illegal campaign financing, cyber attacks against voting infrastructure, along with computer intrusions targeting elected officials and others.

Stewart said he understands why Trump would be defensive about that.

"But it's pervasive", he said.

"These efforts are not exclusive to this election or future elections, but certainly cover issues relevant to the election", he said. "Our adversaries are attempting to undermine our country" on a persistent basis.

"Who is the president who said we are going to drive down the cost of energy and make the United States the most efficient oil exporter in the world...?"

The Senate is working on a bipartisan package backed by GOP leaders that would boost federal assistance to state and local election officials with cybersecurity guidelines, data sharing and security clearances.

"Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs", Nielsen said in an unusually stark warning.