Kirstjen Nielsen may be out of the Trump administration, but she's not out of the news. The New York Times is out with a report claiming that in the waning days of her tenure, Nielsen was instructed not to discuss one of her major concerns as homeland security secretary with President Trump. The Times' report is based on interviews with three unnamed senior administration officials and one former such official and describes Nielsen as increasingly concerned about new methods of Russian interference in the run-up to the 2020 election. But in a 2019 meeting, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reportedly told her Trump is loathe to discuss the subject because he still feels it sparks distasteful questions about his 2016 win. Mulvaney reportedly said it "wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level." The Times' assessment, and much more reaction:
- From the Times: "As a result [of Nielsen abandoning her effort to make the topic an administration priority], the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference."
- From Mulvaney: He had this to say in a Wednesday statement, per Politico: "I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting. Unlike the Obama administration, who knew about Russian actions in 2014 and did nothing, the Trump administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections, and we've already taken many steps to prevent it in the future."
- From another source: On the heels of the Times report, CNN spoke with a government source of its own who didn't focus on Nielsen specifically but said much the same thing: that it was "like pulling teeth" to get the White House to focus on the subject, and that "in general, senior White House staff felt it wasn't a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the president."
- One perspective: Splinter flags an earlier report from Politico about efforts by Nielsen to "rehab her image" after her departure from the administration. "This is what that looks like: leaking details from her time in the administration which make Nielsen look like something less than wholly complicit" in the administration's doings.
- About those leaks: The Week points out that David Axelrod echoed that Nielsen-as-leaker sentiment, tweeting a link to the Times story and writing, "Leaks? Nielsen and her allies are opening the water cannon on @realDonaldTrump, including this appalling story."
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