Jeh Johnson: Media focused on 'Access Hollywood' tape instead of Russian meddling ahead of election

Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that warnings about Russian interference in the 2016 election went unnoticed because of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE (D-Calif.) asked Johnson during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on election security why his department did not alert the American people leading up to the 2016 election that Russians were attempting to meddle in the process. 

“Well, senator, the American people were told,” said Johnson, who led DHS from 2013 until the end of the Obama administration.

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He noted that he and then-Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperIntelligence chiefs should be commended, despite Trump's attacks on them Hillicon Valley: House Intel panel will release Russia interviews | T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push | DHS cyber office hosting webinars on China | Nest warns customers to shore up password security House Intel panel votes to release Russia interview transcripts to Mueller MORE issued a statement on Oct. 7, 2016, that stated the intelligence community was confident the Russian government was behind efforts to interfere in the upcoming election.

“Frankly, it did not get the attention that I thought it should’ve received. It was below-the-fold news the next day, because of the release of the 'Access Hollywood' video the same day, and a number of other events,” Johnson said Wednesday.

“I was expecting follow-up from a lot of journalists, and we never got that because everyone was focused on the campaign and that video, and that debate that Sunday,” he added. 

The Washington Post published its story on the tape on Oct. 8, 2016. The tape, which was recorded in 2005, featured President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE bragging about groping and kissing women without their consent.

Following its release, multiple women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct. 

Trump apologized for the comments and described them as “locker room talk.”

Johnson and current DHS head Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee amid concerns that Russia will attempt to meddle in this year's midterm elections.