Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued a stern warning Tuesday to Russia about meddling in U.S. elections, and said that her department was in "crisis mode" over cybersecurity.
'We are in crisis mode'
Nielsen was addressing an audience at a cybersecurity summit when she directly addressed the assessment by the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.
"Our Democracy itself is in the crosshairs," Nielsen said ominously.
"Two years ago, as we all know," she continued, "a foreign power launched a brazen multifaceted influence campaign to undermine public faith in our democratic process, and to distort our presidential election."
"That campaign was multifaceted. It involved cyber-espionage, leaks of stolen data, cyber-intrusions into voter registrations systems, online propaganda and more," she added.
"Let me be clear. Our intelligence community has it right," Nielsen said. "It was the Russians. We know that, they know that."
"It was directed from the highest levels, and we cannot, and we will not allow that to happen again," Nielsen concluded. "Any attempt to interfere in our elections is a direct attack on our democracy. It is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated."
"We are in crisis mode — the Category 5 hurricane has been forecast and now we must prepare," Nielsen said.
Watch Nielsen's remarks below:
'Putin was extremely strong and powerful'
Nielsen's comments appeared to be in conflict with those of President Donald Trump, who contradicted the assessment by the U.S. intelligence community at his summit with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," he said to reporters after the summit, with Putin standing beside him.
Trump later said that he misspoke and that he did believe the U.S. intelligence community about Russian meddling. He also appeared to deny that Russian cybersecurity attacks were continuing, but later claimed that the media was misrepresenting his comments.