US told France Russia was trying to hack its election

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French expats wait in line to vote in the second round of voting in the 2017 French Presidential election in Montreal, Saturday, May 6, 2017. France goes to the polls on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

The U.S. watched as Russia “penetrated” French systems during the election runup and gave French officials “a heads up,” Adm. Mike Rogers said Tuesday.

Rogers, who also serves as the director of the National Security Agency, said the U.S. is also cooperating with Britain and Germany amid fears that Russia will attempt to sway the outcome of their elections.

“We had become aware of Russian activity. We had talked to our French counterparts prior to the public announcements of the events that were publicly attributed (to Russia) this past weekend and gave them a heads up. Look, we’re watching the Russians; we’re seeing them penetrate some of your infrastructure,” Rogers said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Tens of thousand of internal emails and other documents were released online ahead of the French elections May 5, 2017. Cyber research firms have reportedly linked the coordinated cyberattack on France’s president-elect, Emmanuel Macron, to a group affiliated with Russia that is blamed for meddling in U.S. elections.

Rogers told lawmakers that the pace of cyberattacks by Russia has not slackened since the U.S. elections and that the new administration is developing a cyber deterrence policy and strategy that spells out what constitutes an act of war in cyberspace.

He added that Russia’s goal in manipulating the U.S. election was to undercut America’s democratic principles, to weaken Hillary Clinton and — more broadly  — to help leaders who might be more supportive to Russia. Lawmakers of both parties pressed Rogers that such a policy is long overdue.

“We have a new team in place and they are working through this,” Rogers said. “I know these discussions are ongoing. … I don’t want anyone walking away thinking nothing’s going on … that we’re not grappling with these very tough problems.”