The Dallas Morning News

McMaster: No doubt of meddling

At White House, Trump among only a few still resisting finding

- David E. Sanger, The New York Times

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.”

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