Nielsen responds to new Facebook election report: 'This threat is very real'

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE said Tuesday that she has no reason to believe Russians are not behind a coordinated 2018 midterms disinformation campaign that Facebook made public earlier in the day.

Nielsen appeared on Fox News's "The Daily Briefing," where she said the latest use of social media to sow discord illustrates the "very real" threat to American election security.

"I think part of this a very good news story, because this is showing that Facebook is taking this very seriously, so they should be commended for what they did today," Nielsen said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It also shows, though, that this threat is very real, and Americans need to know that," she continued. "The Russians, or whoever it is in this case — we haven’t attributed it — but Russians and other nation states absolutely are attempting to manipulate us."

Fox News host Dana Perino asked Nielsen if she has any reason to believe it wasn't the Russians behind the latest disinformation effort. 

"I don't," Nielsen said, adding that she has yet to see the intelligence assessment on the campaign.

Nielsen called the 2016 election a "real wake-up call," and said DHS has worked over the past year to ensure each individual state is up to date in protecting its election infrastructure.

Facebook announced Tuesday that it had removed 32 pages and accounts across its main platform and Instagram involved in "inauthentic behavior" after the company discovered them last week.

Facebook has briefed lawmakers on the matter, and has been working with the FBI. The company told lawmakers that the new efforts could have been conducted by Russia, but it has not confirmed that, The New York Times reported.

“We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts — including who may be behind this,” Facebook said in a post Tuesday.

The revelation is likely to heighten concerns that the U.S. may be vulnerable to a foreign influence campaign ahead of the November midterms.

President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE drew widespread criticism following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, where he cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. 

He later seemed to say "no" when asked by reporters whether he believes Russia remains a threat, but the White House claimed he was saying "no" to taking additional questions.

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Former Trump officials including Fiona Hill helped prepare Biden for Putin summit: report Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? MORE said earlier this month that warnings signs were "blinking red" to indicate the threat of an imminent cyberattack from Russia.