Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that any Russian interference in November’s midterm elections would “invite consequences,” but suggested the United States is still vulnerable to such meddling.
“Well, I don’t know that I would say we’re better prepared (than in 2016) because the Russians will adapt as well,” Tillerson told Fox News in an interview from, Bogota, Colombia Tuesday. “The point is if it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that.”
“And we can take steps we can take, but this is something that, once they decide they’re going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it,” he said.
Tillerson said the Trump administration is seeing signs of meddling in European elections, as well as elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, and suggested they could try to interfere in the upcoming US elections as well.
“I think it’s important we just continue to say to Russia, ‘look, if you think we don’t see what you’re doing, we do see it,’” said Tillerson. “‘You need to stop. If you don’t, you’re going to just continue to invite consequences for yourself.’”
Tillerson told CNN last month he’d seen no specific signs of Russian interference in the midterm elections so far.
Asked whether he thought they would meddle, Tillerson said, “I don’t know. I hope they don’t.”
His latest interview follows forceful statements by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who recently told the BBC he had “every expectation” Russia would try to meddle in the midterms, but that he was “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.”
On Tuesday, Politico reported that “Russian-influenced Twitter accounts” were testing political hashtag campaigns “designed to stoke anger, particularly among supporters of President Donald Trump, against ‘deep state’ forces,” citing a website that tracks such accounts.
The US government has publicly accused Russia of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations of the Democratic Party in the lead up to the 2016 presidential elections.
Those hacks resulted in the public release of thousands of stolen emails, many of which included damaging revelations about the Democratic Party and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s nominee.