Trump urges U.S. to work with Rus­sians

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Philip Rucker, Carol Morello, David A. Fahren­thold and David Weigel of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Jill Colvin and Matthew Lee of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by Mark Ni­quette, Nick Wad­hams, Steven T. Den­nis and B

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Sun­day that “it is time to move for­ward in work­ing con­struc­tively with Rus­sia” and that he’d dis­cussed cre­at­ing a cy­ber­se­cu­rity unit with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Speak­ing in a se­ries of tweets the morn­ing af­ter re­turn­ing from Germany, Trump said he “strongly pressed” Putin twice over al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion dur­ing their meet­ing Fri­day on the side­lines of the Group of 20 world lead­ers’ sum­mit in Hamburg.

Trump said Putin “ve­he­mently de­nied” the con­clu­sions of Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that Rus­sian hack­ers and pro­pa­gan­dists tried to sway the elec­tion in Trump’s fa­vor. Trump did not say whether he be­lieved Putin, tweet­ing only that he’s “al­ready given my opin­ion.”

Trump has said he thinks Rus­sia prob­a­bly hacked the emails of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton’s staff mem­bers, but that “other peo­ple and/or coun­tries” were likely in­volved as well. He said ahead of the meet­ing that “no­body knows for sure.”

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus af­firmed that on Fox News Sun­day.

“Yes, he be­lieves that Rus­sia prob­a­bly com­mit­ted all of these acts that we’ve been told of,” Priebus said. “But he also be­lieves that other coun­tries also par­tic­i­pated in this ac­tiv­ity.”

Trump on Sun­day said Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had done “noth­ing” af­ter learn­ing of the Rus­sian hack­ing be­fore the elec­tion, though the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for­mally and pub­licly blamed Rus­sia for the hack­ing on Oct. 7. Trump also said, in the con­text of his meet­ing with Putin, that “ques­tions were asked” about the level of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. The Democrats’ email server was among those that the agen­cies said were com­pro­mised by the Rus­sians. Trump said the CIA and FBI had asked the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee 13 times for its server, and “still don’t have it.”

Putin said Satur­day that he left the meet­ing think­ing that Trump had be­lieved his in-per­son de­nials of

cam­paign med­dling.

“He asked ques­tions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was sat­is­fied with the an­swers,” Putin said.

U.S. of­fi­cials re­sponded on Sun­day to whether Trump had ac­cepted Putin’s de­nials.

“Why would Pres­i­dent Trump broad­cast ex­actly what he said in the meet­ing? Strate­gi­cally that makes no sense,” Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said on ABC’s This Week. “He’s made it very clear how he feels. He’s made it very clear that he ad­dressed it straight on.”

Priebus took is­sue with Putin’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

“The pres­i­dent ab­so­lutely didn’t be­lieve the de­nial of Pres­i­dent Putin,” Priebus said, adding that Trump had spent a “large part of the meet­ing on the sub­ject,” but wanted to move on to other is­sues, in­clud­ing the civil war in Syria.

Crit­ics of the pres­i­dent took is­sue with Trump’s com­ment that Putin “ve­he­mently de­nied” Rus­sian med­dling.

“When pur­su­ing a cor­rupt politi­cian, mob­ster or mur­derer on strong FBI ev­i­dence, if he ‘ve­he­mently de­nied it,’ we just dropped it usu­ally,” for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Preet Bharara joked in a tweet.

John Bren­nan, who served as CIA di­rec­tor un­der Obama and ran the agency’s re­sponse to Rus­sia’s elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence,

chas­tised Trump on Sun­day for re­peat­edly cast­ing doubt on the con­clu­sions of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing at a news con­fer­ence last week in Poland.

“I se­ri­ously ques­tion whether or not Mr. Putin heard from Mr. Trump what he needed to about the as­sault on our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions,” Bren­nan said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Bren­nan added of Trump, “He said it’s an ‘honor’ to

meet Pres­i­dent Putin. An honor to meet the in­di­vid­ual who car­ried out the as­sault against our elec­tion? To me, it was a dis­hon­or­able thing to say.”

CY­BER­SE­CU­RITY UNIT

Trump said Sun­day that he was ea­ger to work with Putin on what he de­scribed as an “im­pen­e­tra­ble Cy­ber Se­cu­rity unit” the two men dis­cussed form­ing “so that elec­tion hack­ing, & many other neg­a­tive things, will be guarded.”

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son ex­plained the unit as a “frame­work un­der which we might be­gin to have agree­ment on how to deal with these very com­plex is­sues of cy­berthreats, cy­ber­se­cu­rity, cy­ber in­tru­sions.”

Hours af­ter his orig­i­nal tweet, Trump clar­i­fied, re­fer­ring to Syria: “The fact that Pres­i­dent Putin and I dis­cussed a Cy­ber Se­cu­rity unit doesn’t mean I think it can hap­pen. It can’t — but a cease­fire can, & did!”

The tweet about the cy­ber­se­cu­rity unit came af­ter a day in which the idea was de­nounced by both Democrats and Repub­li­cans.

On the Repub­li­can side, Sens. John McCain of Ari­zona, Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina and Marco Ru­bio of Florida said Sun­day that Trump’s ea­ger­ness to part­ner with Putin was dan­ger­ous for the United States.

“It’s not the dumb­est idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close,” Gra­ham said on Meet the Press. “When it comes to Rus­sia, [Trump’s] got a blind spot. To for­give and for­get when it comes to Putin re­gard­ing cy­ber­at­tacks is to em­power Putin, and that’s

ex­actly what he’s do­ing.”

Ru­bio tweeted that Putin “will never be a trusted ally or a re­li­able con­struc­tive part­ner,” and that work­ing with him to ad­dress cy­ber­se­cu­rity threats was akin to part­ner­ing with Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad to pro­tect against chem­i­cal weapons.

McCain, mean­while, said Rus­sia has faced “no penalty what­so­ever” from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for its hack­ing.

“We know that Rus­sia tried to change the out­come of our elec­tion last Novem­ber, and they did not suc­ceed, but there was re­ally so­phis­ti­cated at­tempts to do so,” McCain said on CBS’s Face the Na­tion. “So far, they have not paid a sin­gle price for that.”

In­vok­ing the lan­guage of Trump’s tweet, McCain added, “Yes, it’s time to move for­ward, but there has to be a price to pay.”

Gra­ham agreed, say­ing, “This whole idea about mov­ing for­ward with­out pun­ish­ing Rus­sia is un­der­cut­ting his en­tire pres­i­dency.”

For­mer De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter, who served un­der Obama at the time of Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence, said in a CNN in­ter­view that a cy­ber­se­cu­rity unit with Rus­sia was “like the guy who robbed your house propos­ing a work­ing group on bur­glary.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said that ex­pect­ing Rus­sia

to be a cred­i­ble part­ner in any cy­ber­se­cu­rity ini­tia­tive “would be dan­ger­ously naive for this coun­try.”

“If that’s our best elec­tion de­fense, we might as well just mail our bal­lot boxes to Moscow,” he said.

Nikki Ha­ley, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, de­fended Trump’s co­op­er­a­tion with Putin, say­ing that “we won’t ever trust Rus­sia” but that work­ing with Rus­sia on cy­ber­se­cu­rity will “keep them in check.”

“From a cy­ber stand­point, we need to get to­gether with Rus­sia, we need to tell them what we think should hap­pen, shouldn’t hap­pen, and if we talk to them about it, hope­fully, we can cut this out and get them to stop,” Ha­ley said Sun­day on CNN’s State of the Union.

She con­tin­ued: “It doesn’t mean we’ve ever taken our eyes off of the ball. It doesn’t mean we ever trust Rus­sia. We can’t trust Rus­sia and we won’t ever trust Rus­sia. But you keep those that you don’t trust closer, so that you can al­ways keep an eye on them and keep them in check, and I think that’s what we’re try­ing to do with Rus­sia right now.”

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