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White House Chief of Staff Reportedly Telling Advisors Not to Bring Up Russian Meddling in Front of Trump

A new report claims that the White House actively works to never bring up Russia’s election-meddling capabilities in President Donald Trump‘s presence.

New York Times says that for months before Kirstjen Nielsen was ousted from the Department of Homeland Security, she had growing concerns about Russia’s ability to continue interfering with American political institutions. These concerns gravitated around the 2018 midterm elections as the DHS took notice of ongoing Russian activity that could also impact 2020.

The Times heard from multiple administrative officials who say Nielsen tried to set up a White House cabinet meeting and organize a counter-strategy for Russia’s future meddling endeavors.

Ms. Nielsen grew so frustrated with White House reluctance to convene top-level officials to come up with a governmentwide strategy that she twice pulled together her own meetings of cabinet secretaries and agency heads. They included top Justice Department, F.B.I. and intelligence officials to chart a path forward, many of whom later periodically issued public warnings about indicators that Russia was both looking for new ways to interfere and experimenting with techniques in Ukraine and Europe.

One senior official described homeland security officials as adamant that the United States government needed to significantly step up its efforts to urge the American public and companies to block foreign influence campaigns.

However, the idea was shot down by White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who told Nielsen that bringing up Russia’s election-meddling in front of the president is the same thing to him as questioning the legitimacy of his 2016 election victory. Mulvaney said the subject should be “kept below [Trump’s] level,” so the president has yet to put serious focus on cybersecurity threats.

The report goes on to say that Nielsen tried to start discussions on counteracting Russia multiple times, but was repeatedly roadblocked as she fell out of favor with Trump for not helping him get his way on immigration.

UPDATE – 10:25 a.m. ET: Mulvaney has responded to the Times report.

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