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Mattis on Protecting US Elections: 'We Are Not Focused Solely on One Country'

US Defense Secretary James Mattis, Photo AP

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department will provide all support necessary to the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to protect US elections from Russian interference and other bad actors, Defense Secretary James Mattis vowed Tuesday.

"We all saw what happened in 2016 when the Russians and possibly others, but the Russians for certain, tried to both influence operations, and actually get into the election process," Mattis told members of the press outside the Pentagon Tuesday morning while waiting for the arrival of his counterpart from the UK.

"There's also other activities that went on that perhaps are not directly ascribed to the official Russia," The Military Times quoted the defense secretary. "But we watch for all of it and we can trace at least parts of it back to the Russian government."

Mattis added that DoD agencies know what to look for and are engaged in supporting Homeland Security and state and local election officials to protect the integrity of the midterm elections.

"What we've done is take a look at all of those things and engage with the support of the DHS to maintain the integrity of the election," he told reporters.

While he would not specify what US Cyber Command and the National Security Agency are doing, he did note that intelligence officials are concerned about more than just the Russians.

"We are focused on protecting the elections themselves," Mattis said. "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. "

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