NEW YORK -- Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump's chief envoy to the United Nations, cast Russian interference in the 2016 election as "warfare" on Thursday, breaking from a president who has consistently downplayed Russian influence in American politics.
Haley lashed out at Russia's efforts to "sow chaos" in elections across the world at a conference hosted by the George W. Bush Institute.
"The Russians, God bless them, they're saying, 'Why are Americans anti-Russian? And why have we done the sanctions?' Well, don't interfere in our elections, and we won't be anti-Russian," Haley said.
She added, "When a country can come and interfere in another country's elections, that is warfare."
Haley's comments were reinforced by former government officials from both parties, including former President George W. Bush.
"America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country's divisions," Bush said. "The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other."
Trump has continued to question the intelligence community's determination that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Federal officials are investigating Russia's actions and the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia remains open to cooperation with Washington even though Trump's political foes in the U.S. have tried to prevent him from fulfilling his campaign promises.
Asked at a forum of foreign-policy experts if Russia is annoyed with Trump's unpredictability, Putin said it's linked to a "strong resistance inside the country."
He emphasized that Trump won an honest victory thanks to his talents, adding that the lack of respect for Trump and his voters shown by his foes is a "deplorable element of the U.S. political system."
Trump's political adversaries "haven't allowed him to fulfill any of his election platforms and plans," Putin explained.
In the U.S. investigations of Russian influence, Facebook recently provided three congressional committees with more than 3,000 ads they had traced to a Russian Internet agency and told investigators of their contents. Twitter also briefed Congress last month and handed over to Senate investigators the profile names of 201 accounts linked to Russians.
Sen. John McCain and two Democratic senators moved Thursday to force Internet companies like Facebook to disclose who is purchasing online political advertising, introducing a bipartisan bill that would, according to Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia, "prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio and satellite."
Bush, speaking at the conference, said, "Foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence, should never be downplayed or tolerated."
Separately Thursday, Trump suggested that the FBI may have had a hand in creating an intelligence dossier that alleged ties between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign.
"Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?" Trump wrote on Twitter.
The compendium of information about Trump, much of it unproven, was produced by a former British intelligence agent last year before Trump won the 2016 election.
Trump has vigorously denied allegations in the document that the Russian government has collected compromising information about him and was engaged in an active effort to assist his campaign.
The Washington Post has previously reported that the FBI agreed in October 2016 to pay the dossier's author, Christopher Steele, for further work that might help its own investigation into Russian election activities.
The FBI, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, is investigating Russian interference in the election and alleged contacts between Trump's associates and the Kremlin.
As the allegations contained in the dossier began appearing in news stories and the dossier itself became the subject of intense public debate, Steele became a publicly known figure and the FBI did not pursue further work from him, the Post reported in February.
The FBI declined to comment on Trump's tweet.
Information for this article was contributed by Steve Peoples and Vladimir Isachenkov of The Associated Press; by Anne Gearan and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post; and by Kenneth P. Vogel and Cecilia Kang of The New York Times.
A Section on 10/20/2017
Print Headline: Haley blasts Russia for 2016 meddling