Nielsen and Pence Admit Russians Interfered in 2016 Presidential Election

It was an historic day on Tuesday as President Trump’s Vice President and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) both admitted that there was significant Russian interference in the U.S. presidential elections in 2016.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen spoke during an opening roundtable presentation at the DHS National Cybersecurity Summit in New York, saying:

“Let me be clear: Our intelligence community had it right. It was the Russians. We know that, they know that. It was directed from the highest levels. And we cannot and will not allow it to happen again.”

“Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs and under attack. Although no actual votes were changed in 2016. ANY attempt to interfere in our elections is a direct attack on our democracy, it is unacceptable, and it will not be tolerated.”

“Mark my words: America will not tolerate this meddling. … A Category 5 hurricane has been forecast. And now we must prepare.”

Vice President Mike Pence, the keynote speaker at the National Cyber Summit, also directly criticized Russia for that country’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

During his keynote speech Tuesday Pence said:

“While other nations possessed the capability, the fact is, Russia meddled in our 2016 elections. That is the unambiguous judgment of our intelligence community, and as the President said, we ‘accept the intelligence community’s conclusion.'”

He then added that he thought Russia’s goal in interfering was to sow discord and division in America and weaken the American people’s faith in democracy, a conclusion that has been expressed by many other experts. Russia has been known to create divisions in many countries in Europe where they are hoping to weaken democracy and create conflicts within the NATO alliance.

Pence also discussed the integrity of American election processes in his speech, and he promised that the Trump administration takes the threat of election interference during the 2018 elections very seriously.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to prevent foreign nations and malign actors from hacking into our election infrastructure and changing votes or election outcomes,” the Vice President said.

Nielsen’s strong words and her willingness to point fingers at the Russian government were a new and welcome change from President Trump’s previous wavering on the issue, starting in Helsinki. Trump has expressed that he is skeptical about the the U.S. intelligence assessments which concluded there was widespread Russian interference in American elections.

Nielsen also announced at the summit a new DHS National Risk Management Center. According to a statement from DHS, the goals of the new Center are to “identify, assess and prioritize efforts to reduce risks to national critical functions which enable national and economic anxiety.”