A new report claims that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen not to bring up her concerns about Russian meddling in the upcoming 2020 elections to President Donald Trump.
According to The New York Times, Nielsen was becoming increasingly concerned about Russia’s attempts to influence U.S. elections, but when she wanted to bring it up with the president, Mulvaney warned her that he was mired in questions of the legitimacy of his own election.
The above report added that Mulvaney told Nielsen that the topic “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level” and was eventually forced to drop any plans for bringing together a White House team to address issues facing the 2020 election cycle. Because the Department of Homeland Security is primarily responsible for civilian cyber defense, this meant that Americans weren’t made fully aware of the latest Russian attempts to influence U.S. politics. According to the report, Nielsen twice attempted to convene cabinet meetings to discuss the issue but was continually thwarted.
The New York Times reported that the DHS continued to try to issue public warnings about campaign interference, but because the issue never reached the president, his platform was never used to bring the issue to wider attention.
Trump and his associates have attempted to downplay the seriousness of Russian meddling even as officials in his cabinet have attempted to raise the concern. Senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, said that he believes the investigations have been more harmful to the country than Russia’s actions during the 2016 election.
“You look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing,” he said. “But I think the investigations, and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years, has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.”
Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was urged by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney not to bring up the subject of possible Russian interference in the 2020 election to President Trump, the New York Times reports https://t.co/qWLCFQV84R pic.twitter.com/n6iw3h2TAP— CNN (@CNN) April 24, 2019
Nielsen’s attempts to raise the alarm about election interference was corroborated by three current senior Trump administration officials and one former official. Mulvaney responded to the New York Times report saying that he can’t “recall” the conversation.
“I don’t recall anything along those lines happening in a meeting,” he said, adding that the administration “will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections, and we’ve already taken many steps to prevent it in the future.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report spells out the ways in which Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, detailing a years-long campaign aimed at supporting Trump’s election bid with fake social media accounts and activist organizations.