Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday claimed that she hadn't "seen any evidence" that Russian interference in the 2016 election was intended to help President Trump win, despite the U.S. intelligence community concluding that Russia's efforts favored Trump.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Nielsen said, "I don't think there's any question that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral system," adding that "we should all be prepared that they'll do it again." However, when NBC News' Peter Alexander gave her the chance to clarify her thoughts on Russia's preferred outcome, she contradicted intelligence officials' findings by saying Russia merely sought to create "chaos."
"I haven't seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party," she said. She expanded on that theory to say that Russia simply wanted to "cause chaos on both sides. Whether it was in Charlottesville, where we saw them on both sides, whether it's in Syria — both sides. So, no, I would not necessarily say that was the purpose." Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said he wanted Trump to win the election.
Later, Nielsen backtracked and said "I do not disagree" with the intelligence community's assessment. It seems the rest of Nielsen's appearance at Aspen didn't go very smoothly, either, as her speech elicited laughs when she said that Trump "loves diverse opinions" and "craves different points of view." Watch her denial of Russia's favoring of Trump below, via Bloomberg. Summer Meza
“I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor Trump,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says, contradicting U.S. intelligence findings #tictocnews pic.twitter.com/wlgl3MOzms
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) July 19, 2018
Update 4:50 p.m.: Nielsen later issued a tweet in which she said "I agree with the intel community assessment. Full stop. Any attack on our democracy, which is what that was, whether it's successful or unsuccessful, is unacceptable." She said DHS needs to help states "prepare & prevent any Russian interference in our election systems."