In recent months, U.S. national security officials have been preparing for Russian interference in the 2020 presidential race by tracking cyber threats, sharing intelligence about foreign disinformation efforts with social media companies and helping state election officials protect their systems against foreign manipulation.
But these actions are strikingly at odds with statements from President Trump, who has rebuffed warnings from his senior aides about Russia and sought to play down that country’s potential to influence American politics.
The president’s rhetoric and lack of focus on election security has made it tougher for government officials to implement a more comprehensive approach to preserving the integrity of the electoral process, current and former officials said.
Officials insist that they have made progress since 2016 in hardening defenses. And top security officials, including the director of national intelligence, say the president has given them “full support” in their efforts to counter malign activities. But some analysts worry that by not sending a clear, public signal that he understands the threat foreign interference poses, Trump is inviting more of it.