“If you can’t talk about Russia around the president, I don’t see how you get out in front of this, given that they’re the ones doing most of the foreign influence,” said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and disinformation expert for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Administration officials dispute such criticism. The U.S. intelligence community for months has been meeting on the issue, including with National Security Council staff members, they said. But complicating their efforts, they argue, is the fact that the battleground is in the private sector — an area that is traditionally off-limits to intelligence agencies…

With the midterm elections looming, U.S. officials say the overall Russian effort is serious and has many elements that resemble what happened in 2016. These include efforts to hack into the emails of politicians and creating fake social media account to exploit racial, social, cultural and religious divisions in society.