President Trump has a new proposal to stop cyber hacking like the sort that Russia used to undermine the 2016 election: to work with Russia itself on a “cyber security” initiative, an idea that is going over like a lead balloon even with members of his own party.
Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
“Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit,’” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted in response.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) similarly tore into the idea on Meet the Press on Sunday, saying that “it’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard but it’s pretty close.”
In the interview, Graham stressed that in general, he agrees with Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He even praised Trump’s speech in Poland. But when it came to Trump’s attitude towards Russia, Graham said that he was “dumfounded” and “disappointed.”
The entire U.S. intelligence committee writ large has concluded that Russia hacked the 2016 election as an attempt to bolster Trump’s chances. Trump, however, has continuously waffled on the matter.
On Thursday, for example, he said that “nobody really knows for sure” who hacked the election and that “it could have very well been Russia but it could well have been other countries.”
Graham, after stressing directly to Trump that the hacking didn’t influence the election and saying that Trump “won fair and square,” laid out on Sunday exactly how alone Trump is in refusing to accept the agencies’ conclusions.
“He is literally the only person I know of that has any doubt about whether Russia attacked our election system in 2016,” said Graham. “There is only one person in Washington that I know of that has any doubt about what Russia did in our election, and that’s President Trump.”
In addition to proposing to work with the foreign government that hacked the U.S. election to prevent hacking of elections, Trump also indicated after his meeting with Putin that he wanted to leave the matter in the past and move forward — a move that has frustrated even his Republican colleagues because it allows the hacking to go unpunished and tacitly empowers Putin to continue undermining democracies.
“Two hours and 15 minutes of meetings, and [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson and Trump are ready to forgive and forget when it comes to cyber attacks on the American election of 2016,” said Graham. “When it comes to Russia, he’s got a blind spot, and to forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyber attacks is to empower Putin, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
Despite his condemnation, Graham stopped short of saying he would refuse to work with Trump if the president doesn’t impose sanctions on Russia. Instead, Graham said that he was focused on getting a sanctions bill through Congress and onto the President’s desk.
Currently, the bill is stalled in the House, and the White House is lobbying to water down the strong language included in the Senate version.
“If you don’t like our bill word for word, you can change it, but I’m not going to gut the bill,” Graham said about the reports on Sunday. “I am intent on punishing the Russians for interfering in our election. They did it in France, they’re going to do it in Germany, they’re doing it all over the world, they’re doing it in the Balkan states, their neighbors, so I want a clear message for Russia that you’ll pay the price for cutting our democracy.”
“If President Trump doesn’t embrace this, I think he’ll be empowering the Russians and betraying democracy. I can’t say it any clearer than that.”