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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

CIA predicts Russian meddling in US midterm elections but no new sanctions on the way

The Trump administration claimed instead that current measures are sufficient

CIA director Mike Pompeo said he believes Russia will try to disrupt the US midterm elections in November. Reuters / Leah Millis
CIA director Mike Pompeo said he believes Russia will try to disrupt the US midterm elections in November. Reuters / Leah Millis

As CIA director Michael Pompeo predicted more attempts by Russia to interfere in this year's US midterm elections in November, the Trump administration said no new sanctions would be put in place and that the current regime is enough.

According to the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) signed in 2017, Monday was the deadline for both the state and the treasury departments to comply with the law and announce more sanctions. But neither did, and state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that CAATSA in its current form is working as a deterrent, preventing the need for more measures.

“If the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent,” Ms Nauert said.

The treasury was expected to designate a group of Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin. That list may come, but as far as the state department action that would target non-Russian entities dealing with Russian defence and intelligence, none came on Monday.

The state department pause in enforcing new sanctions followed a classified briefing that the administration gave to Congress.

“Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defence sales,” Ms Nauert said, estimating that “foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defence acquisitions.”

“Given the long time-frames generally associated with major defence deals, the results of this effort are only beginning to become apparent,” she said.

Still, the treasury could roll out the oligarchs list as required by the CAATSA law. “The department of treasury does plan to act today to issue a report and take this process the next step forward,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told CNN on Monday morning. But shortly before 9pm in Washington, there was no sign of a new list.

Separately, Mr Pompeo told the BBC that he expected Russia to continue its attempts to interfere in US elections. Asked if such attempts will be made to meddle in the congressional midterm elections this November, he said: “Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won't be great.”

Mr Pompeo said the CIA has not seen “a significant decrease in their [Russia’s subversive] activity”.

Asked if he has to walk a fine line in briefing President Donald Trump, who dismissed reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election as “fake news”, Mr Pompeo said: “I don’t do fine lines, I do the truth.”