His assessment was the result of a request by the White House before the November vote that he examine election meddling by Russia and other powers. The agency did not release that report, but Coats released a statement.
“Russia used social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, Russian-controlled or influenced media, and other means of influence to inflame positions on opposite ends of controversial issues, promote conspiracy theories, and further polarize the American population,” Coats said in the statement.
The report will be sent to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. Under the executive order issued in September, automatic sanctions could be imposed when the government review is complete on anyone found to have tried to manipulate the vote.
The Coats statement included no assessment of the effectiveness of the Russian information campaign — nor offered any more details. But current and former U.S. officials have said Russian propaganda efforts in the midterm elections were less than expected.
In the months before the election, the military’s Cyber Command began a campaign to deter the Russians behind the 2016 influence campaign. They sent messages to Russian operatives saying they had been identified and warned them to cease their efforts.
Cyber Command, the National Security Agency and the FBI also tried to identify fake accounts and Russian-backed trolls who were spreading Moscow’s propaganda, passing that information along to technology companies.
The results of those efforts, and much broader public understanding of Russian techniques, helped contribute to a less-effective campaign, according to Defense Department and other U.S. officials.
Participation in the midterms was up with both parties, and it is not clear if the Russians attempted to try and drive down participation with particular groups of people or if they abandoned that effort during this vote.
U.S. officials said the efforts by Cyber Command and the NSA were continuing even after the 2018 election.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.