Officials have “spent months and months trying to sound alarm at the White House about the need to take foreign interference more seriously and elevate the issue,” the official said, adding that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats shared those views and feels the administration “was not being forward-leaning enough in notifying Congress and the American people.”
The government official said DHS and other agencies made repeated requests to set up more Cabinet-level meetings on the subject and Bolton’s National Security Council rebuffed the requests.
“They (DHS) kept ‘getting the Heisman’ from Bolton and company,” the official said.
The bigger concern, the official said, was post-2018 midterms and the need to sit down and figure out how to coordinate a better whole-of-government response, “to get everyone out of their silos. But it was like pulling teeth to get the White House to focus the attention needed on this.”
CNN has reached out to the NSC and the Office of the DNI for comment.
Raises concerns over future readiness
In a statement to CNN regarding the Times’ report, Mulvaney said he didn’t “recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting” and insisted that the Trump administration has done more to combat Russian meddling than Barack Obama’s administration.
“In fact, for the first time in history, state, local, and federal governments have coordinated in all 50 states to share intelligence, we’ve broadened our efforts to combat meddling by engaging the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FBI among others, and we have even conducted security breach training drills to ensure preparedness,” Mulvaney said.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, called the Times’ report “concerning” during an interview Wednesday with CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” Khanna also said he “absolutely” wants Nielsen to testify before Congress on the issue.
Later in the same program, Republican Sen. Mike Lee told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that Mulvaney’s ask “doesn’t make a lot of sense,” but suggested that the official’s statements may have been misunderstood.
“It may well be that what he was saying was, ‘Let’s find the right time and place and manner in which to bring that up,’ and I suspect that that’s the case,” said Lee, who represents Utah. “If it is the case, that’s not terribly troubling.”
CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.