Mattis: Russia tried to interfere in 2018 midterms

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House does damage control after Mulvaney remarks Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' MORE said Saturday that Russian operatives attempted to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, apparently confirming for the first time that Moscow attempted to meddle in last month's elections.

Mattis spoke of the relationship between the Trump administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin during an interview Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

"There is no doubt the relationship has worsened. He tried again to muck around in our elections this last month," Mattis said. "We are seeing a continued effort around those lines."

Mattis said the Trump administration and other NATO allies have pressed Russia repeatedly on un-democratic actions, but to no avail.

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"This is a very complex situation because clearly Mr. Putin is a slow learner," Mattis said. "He is not recognizing that what he is doing is actually creating the animosity against his people."

"We're dealing with someone we simply cannot trust," he added.

Mattis's comments come after President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE canceled a meeting with Putin at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Argentina this week, citing a naval dispute between Ukrainian and Russian forces on the border of Crimea, which raised fears of new hostilities in the region.

Russian officials fired back on Friday, accusing Trump of canceling the meeting due to domestic political troubles for the Trump administration, and not on any actions taken by Russia toward Ukraine.

The cancellation of the meeting came the same day that the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to making misstatements to Congress about Trump's business dealings in Russia, while agreeing to cooperate further with Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE's special counsel investigation.

Trump maintained on Friday that the incident in Ukraine was the sole reason for the cancellation of his planned meeting with Putin.

“We don't like what happened, we're not happy about what happened,” Trump told reporters while meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “On the basis of what took place with the ships and sailors, that was the sole reason."

The White House said Saturday that Trump and Putin had an "informal" conversation during a dinner the previous night for global leaders at the G-20 summit. The White House did not say what the two leaders discussed.