Nielsen questions Russian Federation interference for Trump

Nielsen seen with chief of staff John Kelly in 2017

Nielsen seen with chief of staff John Kelly in 2017

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen apparently pushed back today on the intelligence community's findings that Russian Federation wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 election.

Reporters asked Nielsen if she questioned a 2017 intelligence community assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed efforts to meddle in the presidential election to try and help President Trump.

The former US secretary of state, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1973, congratulated students, saying: "I am thrilled for all of you...."

After the briefing, Nielsen was asked about intelligence agencies' conclusions that Moscow used social media, leaks of hacked emails and other tactics in 2016 in an attempt to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton. "I am not aware of that".

"The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated and ordered by President Putin himself for the goal of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton", said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee's top Democrat. "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency", the assessment states. "We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump", the report said. The second concurred with the assessment by the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency that Russian Federation tried to assist Trump and damage Clinton, the committee said in a press release.

The Senate Intelligence Committee reported this month that after a 14-month investigation, it agreed with that assessment. It was a big headline, in fact.

The chairman of the House panel, Devin Nunes, has been extensively criticised for his closeness to the Trump White House.

Nielsen's apparent skepticism of the determination that Russian Federation favored Trump is in line with the conclusion reached by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. And all major intelligence community leaders - including those appointed by Trump - have endorsed the finding.

Intelligence agencies have performed joint exercises with local officials on security matters and are working on obtaining higher-grade security clearances for secretaries of state so they can be fully informed about threats to the elections they're in charge of administering.

Unless, of course, something else is going on. Perhaps this has rubbed off on those around him, with those officials emulating his talking points.

"I worry about a man who was once considered a serious intelligence analyst reaching that conclusion because you know all the deep dives that have been done into what the Russians did during the election have indicated, yeah they tried, but what they spent and what they did was utterly dwarfed by all the other efforts, all the other spending, all the other advertising, all the other messaging, all the other campaigning that was done on both sides of that campaign".

Nielsen went on to say she has "no reason to doubt any intelligence assessment". Nielsen said she was unaware of that assessment, which has been public for over a year.

Nielsen's admission shocked intelligence experts and some in Congress.

Update: DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton shared this statement: "The intelligence assessment language is nuanced for a reason".

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