Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Russia is trying to "weaken and divide" the United States ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, members of President Donald Trump's national security team said Thursday, pointing to efforts to combat election interference this fall.
U.S. intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, national security adviser John Bolton, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone appeared together during the White House press briefing where they said they were working with state and local election officials to protect voting systems from threats by Russia and other foreign actors.
"Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs," Nielsen said.
Coats added the United States continues to see "a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States," in regards to the midterm elections.
Wray said intelligence officials are not yet seeing "the same kinds of efforts to specifically target election infrastructure" as in 2016, but rather "information warfare" carried out through propaganda efforts on social media, The Washington Post reported.
"What we are seeing are the malign influence operations," Wray said.
He also warned that other foreign entities have the potential to interfere in midterm campaigns.
"We're here to tell the American people that we acknowledged the threat, it is real, it is continuing and we're doing everything we can to have an election the American people can have trust in," Coats said.
No new policies were announced during the briefing, which was the first time the officials had appeared publicly together to address threats to election security.
"Glad to see the White House finally do something about election security -- even if it's only a press conference," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., wrote on Twitter. "Now if only it was actually backed up by anything the president has said or done on Russia."
The group appearance by intelligence officials comes after Trump led his first meeting of the National Security Council last week to discuss how to combat interference.
Trump was criticized for "disgraceful" and "treasonous" remarks after he declined to condemn Russia's actions during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month.
On Thursday, Bolton said he meets with Trump on the issue of blocking interference in the 2018 campaign "constantly" and privately raised concerns with Putin during their meeting.
"President Trump has not and will not tolerate interference in America's system of representative government," Bolton wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats outlining the administration's actions toward Russia.