Former Navy Secretary Questions Russia's Role in Election

In this Feb. 2, 2016 file photo, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus Jr. testifies on Capitol Hill, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to examine the implementation of the decision to open all ground combat units to women. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
In this Feb. 2, 2016 file photo, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus Jr. testifies on Capitol Hill, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to examine the implementation of the decision to open all ground combat units to women. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

JACKSON, Miss. — A former secretary of the Navy said during a speaking appearance Friday that he has questions about Russia's involvement in the presidential election.

"I want to know what the Russian intelligence services had to do with our democracy," Ray Mabus said Friday at Millsaps College in Jackson. His remarks on Russia came in response to an audience question about U.S. intelligence.

Mabus, who held the post from 2009 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, is the longest-serving secretary of the Navy since World War I. A Mississippi native and the state's Democratic governor from 1988 to 1992, Mabus is now a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School.

"I'm worried about American democracy," he said in response to another audience question. "I'm concerned about the resiliency and strength of it."

Mabus spent much of his speech touting his record under Obama, including a ship buildup and a changeover in how the Navy uses energy. He set a goal that by 2020, at least half of naval energy would come from non-fossil fuel sources. By the time he left, the energy use onshore was 65 percent alternative and 35 percent at sea.

"You can't ignore climate change. It's a national security issue," he said. "I talk about it not to advance some sort of green agenda, but because it's indispensable to the military."

Much of his talk appeared to be an implicit repudiation of the Trump administration. He discussed naming ships after civil rights heroes such as Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat who called the Trump presidency "illegitimate." Mabus also described the thanks he'd gotten from a gay service member who served for 11 years and did three tours of combat after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Mabus warned that if the Trump administration turns back social reforms established in the Navy, doing so would hurt the force.

"They're not doing it because of qualifications," he said. "They're doing it because they're just against women. They're just against gays. They're just against something other than qualifications because it has nothing to do with qualifications."

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