WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is taking steps to defend its upcoming elections and to thwart efforts by foreign actors to influence the American people, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday, without detailing what those efforts were.

"Rest assured there are actions underway to protect our elections or to expose any external – any, by anybody - external efforts to influence the American public," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, citing the example of planting false news reports. "But I'm not going to go into any details."

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has warned that Russia and other foreign entities were likely to attack U.S. and European elections this year and beyond, adding Moscow believes similar efforts successfully undermined U.S. democracy two years ago.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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