US official says getting White House to focus on Russian interference like 'pulling teeth': CNN

US official says getting White House to focus on Russian interference like 'pulling teeth': CNN
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A U.S. official with knowledge of the Trump administration's efforts to combat Russia's election interference told CNN on Wednesday that getting the White House to pay attention to the efforts was like "pulling teeth."

The official, who went unnamed, told CNN that Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' MORE feels that the White House is not being "forward-leaning enough in notifying Congress and the American people" about the need to take Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. affairs more seriously.

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The source said that officials have "spent months and months trying to sound alarm at the White House about the need to take foreign interference more seriously and elevate the issue," but have largely seen their pleas fall on deaf ears.

The source indicated that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE's National Security Council has blown off requests from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to meet about the issue, saying DHS kept "getting the Heisman" from national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonWill Iran 'break out' for a nuclear weapon, and what can Trump do? Hillicon Valley: FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine | Trump calls to regulate Facebook's crypto project | Court rules Pentagon can award B 'war cloud' contract | Study shows automation will hit rural areas hardest Trump again considering dismissing intelligence chief Dan Coats: report MORE and his staff.

"In general, senior White House staff felt it wasn't a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the president," the unnamed official continued.

The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

The official's comments come after The New York Times reported that former DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele Nielsen Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' MORE, who recently announced her resignation, was urged not to bring up Russia-related issues with Trump during their meetings, despite Nielsen's concern about what she believed to be a key national security issue. 

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Acosta out as Trump Labor secretary Pelosi reportedly told Trump deputy: 'What was your name, dear?' MORE reportedly warned Nielsen that the topic “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below [the president's] level," according to the Times. 

Mulvaney told CNN that he didn't "recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting" with Nielsen.

"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 told the network.