Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had urged former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen not to bring up concerns of Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election with President Donald Trump.
Quoting senior administration officials, The New York Times reported that Mulvaney told Nielsen in a meeting this year that concerns about future Russian interference "wasn't a great subject and should be kept below his level".
The White House chief of staff made it clear that Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory, the officials added.
Nielsen eventually dropped her plans to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year's elections.
However, in response to queries over the meeting, Mulvaney, on the same day, told CNN that he didn't "recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting" and insisted that the Trump administration has done more to combat Russian meddling than Barack Obama's administration."
"In fact, for the first time in history, state, local, and federal governments have coordinated in all 50 states to share intelligence, we've broadened our efforts to combat meddling by engaging the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FBI among others, and we have even conducted security breach training drills to ensure preparedness," Mulvaney was quoted saying.
On April 7, Nielsen put down her resignation papers as Trump expressed his growing anger over the number of immigrants at the US-Mexico border.
The report comes less than a week after a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian intelligence in the 2016 presidential election was released.
"The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion," the report said.
"The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome," the statement added.
It added that Trump's campaign "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts".
Meanwhile, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner downplayed Russia's involvement, describing it as "buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent".
"Quite frankly, the whole thing's just a big distraction for the country," he said at the Time 100 Summit despite Mueller's findings.
"It's a terrible thing, but I think the investigations and all the speculation that happened for the past two years had a much harsher impact on democracy than a couple of Facebook ads," The New York Times quoted Kushner as saying.
Trump has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a "witch-hunt" and "hoax", while his legal team declared it to be a victory. (ANI)