In a remarkable break with U.S. intelligence agencies, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted Thursday that there was no evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election with the express purpose of helping then-candidate Donald Trump win.
At first, Nielsen distinguished between efforts targeted at election infrastructure in the U.S. and other attempts to meddle.
“I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party,” she said at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum in Colorado. “I think what we’ve seen on the foreign influence side is they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides.”
She also mentioned that Russia continued to sow discord after Trump’s election, citing activity related to the white nationalist rally and attack on counter-protesters in Charlottesville, after which Trump blamed “both sides.”
When pushed about intelligence agencies’ findings—in three separate assessments from the intelligence community, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee—that the Russians definitively did hack the election to help Trump win, Nielsen danced around the issue and would not name Trump himself.
“It was in an effort to attack certain political parties that we know about more than others, so we’ll continue to look and see what that means and be prepared for the next time,” she said.
This is not the first time Nielsen declined to state that Russian’s election meddling was aimed at helping Trump — she made similar comments in May.
Nielsen also refused to name Russian Vladimir Putin as part of the hacking effort, placing the blame broadly with “Russian government actors.”
“I would say I don’t think there’s any question in the intel community or at DHS that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral system,” @SecNielsen says https://t.co/YeQJHdRGEA pic.twitter.com/JhkZoyOBIQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 19, 2018