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White House says ‘vast’ effort to stop election meddling in 2018, 2020

Click to play video: 'U.S. intelligence monitoring ‘continued’ Russian election meddling' U.S. intelligence monitoring ‘continued’ Russian election meddling
WATCH: U.S. intelligence monitoring 'continued' Russian election meddling – Aug 2, 2018

President Donald Trump has directed a “vast, government-wide effort” to protect American elections after Russian attempts to interfere in 2016, the White House said Thursday.

Responding to bipartisan criticism that it has no clear national strategy to protect the country during the upcoming midterms and beyond, John Bolton, the national security adviser, wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats that “President Trump has not and will not tolerate interference in America’s system of representative government.”

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The warning to American adversaries came as top U.S. intelligence and homeland security officials raised alarms about potential efforts to influence the 2018 and 2020 elections. Homeland security chief Kirstjen Nielsen said: “Our democracy is in the crosshairs.”

“We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said.

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WATCH: Trump slams Russian investigation as intel community say Russia still interfering in elections

Click to play video: 'Trump slams Russian investigation as intel community say Russia still interfering in elections' Trump slams Russian investigation as intel community say Russia still interfering in elections
Trump slams Russian investigation as intel community say Russia still interfering in elections – Aug 2, 2018

Their comments during a White House briefing followed weeks after Trump publicly undermined the conclusions of American intelligence agencies regarding Russian interference. After suffering a bipartisan outcry, Trump later said he accepted those conclusions.

They, along with National Security Agency director Gen. Paul Nakasone and FBI Director Christopher Wray, appeared at the White House Thursday to try to reassure the American people they are doing everything in their power to address the threat.

“We’re throwing everything at it,” Coats said.

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Nielsen, Wray and Nakasone had all gathered earlier this week in New York City with leaders of top finance, energy and telecommunications companies for a cybersecurity summit, where they spoke of the urgent need for a collective, collaborative approach to security.

At the event, Nielsen said the cyberthreat that now exceeds the danger of a physical attack against the U.S. by a hostile foreign group.

WATCH: Trump says Russia ‘very unhappy’ that he won election, slams Russia investigation once more

Click to play video: 'Trump says Russia ‘very unhappy’ that he won election, slams Russia investigation once more' Trump says Russia ‘very unhappy’ that he won election, slams Russia investigation once more
Trump says Russia ‘very unhappy’ that he won election, slams Russia investigation once more – Aug 2, 2018

Wray told reporters that compared to 2016, in 2018, “We are not yet seeing the same kind of efforts to specifically target election infrastructure,” but that other efforts to influence public opinion continue.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers in both parties have pushed election security toward the top of the coming fall agenda amid heightened concerns about interference by Russians and others ahead of the midterm elections.

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Asked this week how confident he was in the integrity of election systems ahead of the fall midterms, the No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said, “I’m confident we’re doing the best we can.”

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Donald Trump has purposely muddied the waters about Russian interference, and no one knows why

Beyond Russian interference with social media campaigns to influence voters, lawmakers are increasingly looking at how to bolster election infrastructure in the states – even though Congress shot down a recent effort to boost federal funding for local and state systems.

Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the administration’s response as fragmented, without enough co-ordination across federal agencies. And with the midterms just three months away, critics are calling on Trump to take a stronger stand on an issue critical to American democracy.

WATCH: WH uses Putin’s words to reassure Americans on election meddling

Click to play video: 'White House uses Putin’s words to reassure Americans on election meddling' White House uses Putin’s words to reassure Americans on election meddling
White House uses Putin’s words to reassure Americans on election meddling – Aug 2, 2018

The Senate is working on a bipartisan package backed by GOP leaders that would boost federal assistance to state and local election officials with cybersecurity guidelines, data sharing and security clearances. It’s expected in September. GOP lawmakers are wary of being seen as imposing any new regulations on states that have resisted federal control.

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Bolton said Trump is “leading unprecedented action to punish Russia” for its efforts to disrupt American elections.

WATCH: Sarah Sanders, Jim Acosta spar over Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ comments

Click to play video: 'Sarah Sanders, Jim Acosta spar over Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ comments' Sarah Sanders, Jim Acosta spar over Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ comments
Sarah Sanders, Jim Acosta spar over Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ comments – Aug 2, 2018

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