Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's attempts to raise the alarm about Russian interference in American elections was thwarted by White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who told her not to bring up the subject with President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Mulvaney made it clear Trump viewed any public talk of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory and thus did not want the subject discussed.
Even though the Department of Homeland Security has the main responsibility for civilian cyberdefense and Nielsen was extremely concerned about Russia's interference in the 2018 midterm elections and future ones – due to Trump's attitude – she gave up on attempts to organize a White House meeting of Cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year's elections.
Nielsen's frustrations were described to the Times by three senior administration officials and a former one, with the White House refusing to provide comment.
The opening page of the Worldwide Threat Assessment, which was compiled by government intelligence agencies and delivered to Congress earlier this year, warned "Russia's social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians" and Moscow might increase its tactics "in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions and elections."
Nielsen grew so frustrated with Trump's refusal to discuss an overall strategy she twice held her own top-level meetings on the subject.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied the administration sidestepped the topic, saying "I don't think there's been a discussion between a senior U.S. official and Russians in this administration where we have not raised this issue."
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