The Dallas Morning News
McMaster: No doubt of meddling
At White House, Trump among only a few still resisting finding
Evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election “is now incontrovertible,” the national security adviser says.
MUNICH — Just hours after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians in what it charged was a broad conspiracy to alter the 2016 election, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, accused Moscow of engaging in a campaign of “disinformation, subversion and espionage” that he said Washington would continue to expose.
The evidence of a Russian effort to interfere in the election “is now incontrovertible,” McMaster said at the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of European and U.S. diplomats and security experts, including several senior Russian officials. On Friday, just hours before the indictment, the top White House official for cyberissues had accused Russia of “the most destructive cyberattack in human history,” against Ukraine last summer.
Taken together, the statements appeared to mark a major turn in the administration’s willingness to directly confront the government of President Vladimir Putin. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo also attended the Munich conference, and while they did not speak publicly, in private meetings with others here they made similar statements.
The comments highlighted a sharp division inside the administration about how to talk about the Russian covert efforts, with only Trump and a few of his close advisers holding back from acknowledging the Russian role or talking about a larger strategy to deter future attacks.
The indictment characterized the cyberattacks and social media fraud as part of a larger effort by Russia to undermine the United States. A senior administration official called the effort to confront Russia “a significant point of contention” within the administration.
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking this past week in Washington, misstated U.S. intelligence conclusions about the election hacking, arguing that it did not affect the outcome of the election. The intelligence chiefs have said they have not, and cannot, reach such a conclusion.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, cited Pence’s comments during the session here Saturday to make the case that Russia did nothing wrong. “So until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber,” he said.
The man who served as the Russian ambassador to the United States during the period covered by the indictments, Sergey Kislyak, picked up on a favorite theme of Trump’s: questioning the credibility of the FBI and intelligence agency assessments.
“I have seen so many indictments and accusations against Russians,” Kislyak said Saturday. “I am not sure I can trust American law enforcement to be the most truthful source against Russians. The allegations being mounted against us are simply fantasies.”