Russia ‘certainly’ interfered with 2016 U.S. presidential election – Pentagon chief
Mattis said at Pentagon that the Defence Department would provide all support necessary to the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to protect U.S. elections from Russian interference and other bad actors.
“We all saw what happened in 2016 when the Russians, and possibly others, tried to do both influence operations and actually try to corrupt some of the processes,” he said.
Facebook had announced recently that it uncovered some fake Facebook accounts aimed at causing disaffection during the midterm elections in November and had removed them.
Alleged Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, in which President Donald Trump won by Electoral College but lost to his archival and Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton by almost three million popular votes, led to the set-up of the special panel headed by Robert Mueller.
Trump received 304 electoral votes and Clinton garnered 227 but while Trump polled 62,984,825 or 46.4 per cent of the popular votes, Clinton polled 65,853,516 or 48.5 per cent.
However, Trump has repeatedly and angrily claimed witch-hunt by the Democrats and insisted that there was no collusion.
Mattis said Pentagon’s agencies knew what to look for, particularly the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, adding they were engaged in supporting Homeland Security and state and local election officials to protect the integrity of the midterm elections.
Mattis emphasised that the Department of Defence was not focused on one country, but on protecting the election process itself.
He added that the Pentagon was also guarding against influence operations and on attempts to corrupt the election process.
The defence secretary also said the U.S. military must address space as a developing warfighting domain that might lead to the creation of a new combatant command.
The defence chief said he was in favour of establishing a combatant command covering space and that a process was in progress.
“The Department of Defence is in complete alignment with President Donald J. Trump’s concern about protecting America’s assets and interests in space.
“We are going to have to address it as other countries show the capabilities to attack those assets,’’ Mattis added.
Mattis said Vice President, Mike Pence, is the “point man” on space and that Pentagon was working closely with him and relevant committees at the Congress.
“We are still putting it together; we’ll get it right and we’ll work it through the Congress.
“We have the direction from the president and we are underway,” Mattis said.