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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Russia is already trying to influence the U.S. midterm election, warning that it will be difficult for the United States to "pre-empt" it.
In an interview with Fox News from Bogotá, Colombia, where he met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Tillerson said Russia was gearing up to meddle in the 2018 U.S. elections following the playbook it used in 2016.
Saying Russia has "a lot of different tools" at its disposal, he said:
"I don't know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt, as well. The point is, if it's their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that. We can take steps, but this is something that, once they decide they are going to do it, it's very difficult to pre-empt it."
Tillerson said it was "important that we continue to say to Russia: 'Look, if you think we don't see what you're doing, we do see it, and you need to stop. If you don't, you're just going to continue to invite consequences for yourself.'"
He didn't detail what those consequences could be in the brief clips Fox News aired Tuesday night.
Tillerson's comments echoed an alarm sounded last month by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told the BBC, "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," Pompeo said.
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The declassified version of a report early last year from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Russia undertook a covert operation to undermine U.S. democracy, which evolved into an attempt to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The operation spread to include "multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards," the report said.
The Trump administration notified Congress last month that it wouldn't enact new sanctions against Russia in response to the election interference.