On Wednesday, just a day after walking back his comments regarding the intelligence community and Russian hacking – and openly acknowledging that Russia did attempt to hack Democratic institutions – President Trump was asked a question about Russia’s continued efforts to sow chaos in the political system. “Is Russia still targeting the US?” he was asked. “No,” he quickly replied. “No. No.” He then added, “No president has been as tough as I have been on Russia. I think President Putin knows that better than anyone. Better than the media.”
According to Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, this is untrue. Just four days ago, he stated while speaking before the Hudson Institute that “the warning lights are blinking red” regarding Russian cyberinterference. He said the digital infrastructure of the United States “is literally under attack.” He said the worst aggressor was Russia, “no question.” Coats explained that if confronted with Putin, he would say, “We know what you’re doing, and we know you know what you’re doing and what we’re doing. If your goal is to strengthen Russia in the proper way, we can cooperate with you. But if you want to stay in this tit-for-tat, we’re going to beat you.”
Yet now Trump says that Russia no longer poses a cyberthreat.
This isn’t just foolish, it’s damaging. It’s damaging because Putin could easily be thinking that American anti-Russian activity will scale down, given Trump’s comments ripping NATO, his unwillingness to condemn Russian election interference, and now his statement that Russia is no longer threatening us in the cybersphere.