WASHINGTON: The US government on Thursday accused Russia of carrying out a "pervasive" campaign to influence public opinion and elections, in a warning just months before crucial legislative polls.
"We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign from Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States," said Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.
A slew of top US officials including Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen vowed to investigate and prosecute those who were trying to sway US opinion or carrying out what Wray described as "information warfare."
"Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs," Nielsen said in an unusually stark warning.
"This is not just an election cycle threat," Wray said. "Our adversaries are trying to undermine our country on a persistent and regular basis, whether it's election season or not."
The comments came in jarring contrast to the positions of President Donald Trump, but the two men dismissed suggestions the president -- who has repeatedly denied Russia moved to tilt the election in his favor -- is not taking the issue seriously.
In a letter to Congress, National Security Advisor John Bolton said the administration had taken "extensive, historic action" to stop the threat.
Trump has mulled easing sanctions against Moscow, held warm meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and refused to criticize him over the meddling in the 2016 election.
He has also repeatedly called for an end to the investigation into Moscow's meddling, which has seen more than 20 Russians indicted so far.
Asked whether the American people could trust the adminstration to do its job, Wray responded: "I can assure the American people that the men and the women of the FBI, from the director all the way on down, are going to follow our oaths and do our jobs."