Mattis Pushes Back on Report Trump Is Resistant to Briefings on Russia

December 15, 2017

Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday pushed back on reports that President Donald Trump has resisted and grown agitated in response to briefings on Russia.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin read out Mattis' comments in response to a question about a Washington Post report that said the president doesn't like to talk about Russia.

"I have no reservation nor has the president ever evidenced any pushback when I bring up Russia in a national security context ... I have not seen this shyness including over at the White House," Mattis said.

The Post report said intelligence officials have downplayed information about Russia when they briefed Trump out of fear of angering him.

Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or what to do about it, administration officials said. Although the issue has been discussed at lower levels at the National Security Council, one former high-ranking Trump administration official said there is an unspoken understanding within the NSC that to raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity, which the president would see as an affront.

Intelligence officials who brief the president play down information about Russia they fear might displease him, current and former officials said. Plans for the State Department to counter Russian propaganda remain stalled. And while Trump has formed a commission to investigate widely discredited claims of U.S. voter fraud, there is no task force focused on the election peril that security officials regard as a certainty — future Russian attacks.

Mattis was also asked whether he believes Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, the Daily Beast reports.

"Yes, I believe they did," Mattis said.