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Mattis: Pentagon Helping 'Maintain the Integrity of the Election' from Midterm Meddling

Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks with reporters outside the Pentagon on Aug. 7, 2018. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon today that his department is “engaged in support of the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement in order to maintain the integrity of the election,” but “I prefer not to say what those specifics are because, in that case, our adversary would know.”

“The Russians, for certain, tried to do both influence operations and actually get in and actually corrupt some of the election process. And so, what we’ve done is taken a look at all of those things so that we know what to look for,” Mattis said, adding that the adversaries this time around “may be more than just Russia — we are not focused solely on one country. We are focused on protecting the elections themselves.”

“So we’re looking at both this influence-peddling and the corrupting — the violating the integrity of the elections.  And those activities are in direct support of law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security.”

Mattis said he believed that the campaign interference “is official Russian support” coming from the Kremlin; “however, that is not exclusive.”

“There is also other activities that went on that perhaps are not directly ascribed to the official Russians. But we watch for all of it and we can trace at least parts of it back to the Russian government,” he added.

Pressed on Defense Department involvement, Mattis explained that “our mission is to protect the Constitution, protect our way of life, protect our elections, maintain the integrity of the election process, that is what we do in support of the Department of Homeland Security and we protect against anyone who would try to muck around from outside the country.”

“Inside the country is a law enforcement issue. And they handle any kind of corruption allegations on an election. But as far as overseas, we have much of the capability in the Department of Defense, specifically in U.S. Cyber Command and NSA,” the Defense secretary said. “And we work together to watch for any kind of threats from wherever, from criminals, from countries, from lone actors, from whomever. And it takes — as you know, it’s very hard to identify in each case, but in some cases we have. I’d prefer not to go into more details on that.”

Mattis met with UK Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson today at the Pentagon “to reaffirm the long-standing and special defense relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the DoD said.

“I think the world is getting an increasingly darker place,” Williamson told reporters after being welcomed to the Pentagon. “We see the increasing threats as sort of emerging from, not just in ungoverned spaces that we’ve been tackling over the last few decades, but of increasing state-based threats: The challenges from Russia, increasing assertiveness of China, and continued problems, such as Iran, that will continue to dominate our thinking.”

“But by dealing with this, the best way is actually with friends, with those common values, and I have no doubt that we can do so,” the British secretary added.