WASHINGTON — Christopher A. Wray, the director of the F.B.I., warned a Home committee on Thursday that Russia was actively pursuing a disinformation marketing campaign towards former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and expressed alarm about violent extremist teams.

“Racially motivated violent extremism,” principally from white supremacists, has made up a majority of home terrorism threats, Mr. Wray informed the Home Homeland Safety Committee. He additionally echoed an intelligence group evaluation last month that Russia was conducting a “very lively” marketing campaign to unfold disinformation and intervene within the presidential election, with Mr. Biden as the first goal.

“We definitely have seen very lively — very lively — efforts by the Russians to affect our election in 2020,” Mr. Wray stated, particularly “to each sow divisiveness and discord, and I believe the intelligence group has assessed this publicly, to primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden in what the Russians see as a sort of an anti-Russian institution.”

Mr. Wray’s blunt feedback had been the newest instance of a prime nationwide safety official contradicting President Trump’s downplaying of Russian election interference. A homeland safety official has accused the Trump administration of soft-pedaling each the Russian and white supremacist threats as a result of they’d make “the president look dangerous.”

Mr. Wray’s testimony additionally got here a day after one other prime administration appointee, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, undercut the president’s dim view of carrying protecting masks and stated {that a} coronavirus vaccine was most definitely a number of months away. The president later lashed out at Dr. Redfield, saying he “made a mistake” on the vaccine timeline.

The listening to was additionally notable for the absence of the performing secretary of homeland safety, Chad F. Wolf, who was ordered to testify however skipped the looks, defying a congressional subpoena.

He as a substitute met with the Senate Homeland Safety Committee to organize for his upcoming affirmation listening to, a division official stated. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the performing deputy secretary, criticized the committee on Twitter for not welcoming him in Mr. Wolf’s place.

Consultant Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the chairman of the Home committee, complained that Mr. Wolf ought to have proven as much as reply questions on overseas efforts to intervene with the election, the coronavirus pandemic and the rising risk of home terrorism.

“Mr. Wolf ought to be right here to testify as secretaries of homeland safety have finished earlier than,” Mr. Thompson stated. “As an alternative we now have an empty chair, an acceptable metaphor for the Trump administration’s dereliction on so many of those important homeland safety points.”

Mr. Wray was as a substitute left to debate the problems, together with Christopher Miller, the director of the Nationwide Counterterrorism Heart, who additionally testified.

Mr. Wray condemned all acts of bloodshed however avoided overemphasizing violence attributable to far-left teams like Antifa, the unfastened motion that purports to be towards fascism, which Mr. Trump and Lawyer Common William P. Barr have repeatedly blamed for unrest in American cities.

Mr. Barr described Antifa this month as “the ramrod for the violence,” and the president’s re-election marketing campaign has portrayed the group as a significant risk to American cities. Whereas some claiming affiliation to Antifa have dedicated violent acts, racist extremists have been the extra deadly risk lately, Mr. Wray stated.

Mr. Trump stated on Thursday that the F.B.I. ought to deal with the group with a heavier hand. “I take a look at them as a bunch of properly funded ANARCHISTS & THUGS who’re protected as a result of the Comey/Mueller impressed FBI is just unable, or unwilling, to search out their funding supply, and permits them to get away with ‘homicide,’” he said on Twitter after the listening to.

A former profession prosecutor, Mr. Wray has attracted little consideration as F.B.I. director, giving speeches targeted on following guidelines and procedures. He has said he desires plowhorses, not showhorses, on the bureau.

Democrats pressed him on whether or not the administration was focusing sufficient on armed militias and white supremacists, whereas Republicans expressed comparable issues about Antifa, which Mr. Wray described as an “ideology or motion” reasonably than a company.

“That appears to me to be downplaying it,” stated Consultant Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas, citing current episodes in mass demonstrations the place individuals focused officers with lasers.

Mr. Wray defended his evaluation.

“I not at all imply to reduce the seriousness of the violence and criminality that is occurring throughout the nation, a few of which is attributable to individuals impressed by or who self-identify with that ideology or motion,” Mr. Wray stated. “We’re targeted on that violence, that criminality.”

He stated the F.B.I. averaged roughly 1,000 home terrorism investigations yearly and had recorded about 120 arrests on home terrorism suspicions this yr. However he made it clear that white supremacist and anti-government teams had been the first threats.

Specifically, neo-Nazi teams comparable to Atomwaffen Division and the Base have drawn the eye of the F.B.I., which has arrested violent members of these organizations. White supremacists have carried out probably the most deadly assaults on American soil lately.

Mr. Wray’s descriptions of Russian interference and white supremacist efforts echoed a draft of a homeland safety risk evaluation {that a} whistle-blower stated division leaders had blocked.

The whistle-blower, Brian Murphy, the previous head of the Homeland Safety Division’s intelligence department, filed a complaint with the Home Intelligence Committee asserting that Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli blocked the discharge of the annual evaluation due to how parts on white supremacist extremism and Russian interference would mirror on Mr. Trump.

A draft of the report from August stated white supremacist extremists “will stay probably the most persistent and deadly risk within the homeland by way of 2021.”

It added that Russia might be “the first covert overseas affect actor and purveyor of disinformation.”

Mr. Murphy accused Homeland Safety Division leaders of directing analysts to focus on threats posed by China and Iran. These nations have focused Mr. Trump however don’t pose as a lot of an instantaneous risk to the US as Russia, intelligence officers have stated.

The criticism prompted the Home committee to increase its inquiry into the division’s intelligence gathering, however division leaders are resisting. Beth Spivey, an assistant secretary for homeland safety, informed the committee in a letter this week that witnesses from the division shouldn’t be anticipated to reply questions on Mr. Murphy’s criticism.

The Homeland Safety Division was additionally scrutinized final month after it emerged that the company declined to publish a July 9 intelligence doc warning of Russian makes an attempt to denigrate Mr. Biden’s psychological well being and of China and Iran’s efforts to focus on Mr. Trump. On the time, Mr. Wolf stated he questioned the standard of the report and despatched it again for revision.

An up to date model of the bulletin dated Sept. 4 and obtained by The New York Occasions nonetheless contains warnings of Russia’s efforts to focus on Mr. Biden with further particulars on how the nation’s ways evaluate with China’s and Iran’s.

“These efforts in all probability fall wanting Russia’s extra sustained, coordinated malign affect operations throughout a number of overt and covert platforms to undermine different U.S. politicians,” it stated.

Whereas homeland safety officers have seldom singled out the Russian risk with out grouping it with China and Iran, Mr. Wray stated the intelligence group had reached a consensus that Russia was interfering within the election and focusing on Mr. Biden.

Microsoft additionally issued a warning last week detailing efforts by Russian army intelligence items to hack marketing campaign workers members and consultants of Democrats and Republicans. That report additionally discovered that Chinese language hackers had targeted assaults on the personal emails of Mr. Biden’s marketing campaign workers members.

Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes and Robert Draper contributed reporting.


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