Trump once again contradicts his intelligence chief and says Russia is not targeting the US

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty ImagesAt a Wednesday cabinet meeting, Trump contradicted his top intelligence official in saying that Russia did not continue to pose a cybersecurity threat to the US
  • President Donald Trump said “no” when asked Wednesday whether the US is still a target of Russian-led cyberattacks and meddling into US elections.
  • His response directly contradicts the findings of Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence, who says the “warning lights” of cyberattacks on the US are “blinking red.”
  • At his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Trump said he didn’t see any reason to believe that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, comments he then tried to walk back.

While taking questions from reporters at a Wednesday cabinet meeting, President Donald Trump said “thank you very much, no” when asked whether the US is still a target of Russian-led cyberattacks and meddling into US elections, directly contradicting Dan Coats, his own director of national intelligence, for the second time in three days.

Trump also said that “there has never been a president as tough on Russia” as he has been. In White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ Wednesday afternoon briefing, Sanders told reporters that she “interpreted” that Trump was saying “no” to taking questions, not “no” to whether Russia was continuing to target the US, despite the fact that Trump kept speaking to reporters after.

Earlier this week, Trump sent shockwaves throughout the world during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he directly brushed aside Coats’ and the entire US intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

“My people came to me – Dan Coats came to me, some others – they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.

That same day, Coats issued a statement strongly rebuking the President. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective evidence in support of our national security,” he said.

On Tuesday, Trump attempted to walk back his comments at the summit almost 24 hours after the fact by claiming he meant to say he didn’t see any reason why the intelligence community’s findings wouldn’t, instead of would, be true.

While speaking at an event at the Hudson Institute on Friday, before the press conference firestorm had even happened, Coats said the “warning signs” of threats to US cybersecurity infrastructure he sees today are reminiscent of the warnings before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack,” he said. “It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to then-CIA Director George Tenet, the system is blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again.”

Coats named Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as the main threats to US cybersecurity, but added that, in his view, Russia is “most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.”

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