Federal officials have expressed concern that President Donald Trump does not consider preventing any future cyber attacks by the Russian government a top priority. The president is also reportedly considering offering concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin in their upcoming first meeting.
On June 24, Trump blasted former President Barack Obama for his response to the Russian cyber campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
"I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it," Trump told Fox News. "The CIA gave him information of Russia a long time before the election... If he had information, why didn't he do something about it?"
On June 23, it was disclosed that Obama had been given a dossier in August containing evidence Putin had directly ordered cyber attacks to undermine former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. While federal agencies recommended that Obama take harsh measures to punish the Putin administration before the election, the former president ultimately decided to leave the bulk of retaliation to his successor, The Washington Post reports.
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While Trump has been critical of Obama's response to the Russian threat, current administration officials have become increasingly alarmed that the current president intends to do even less.
One senior Trump administration official asserted that there was no indication the president was taking any steps to curb a future Russian cyber attack.
"I've seen no evidence of it," the official told CNN.
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"It's ridiculous that nothing been done," said senior fellow Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. "There is no Russia policy. No one knows if they can work on Russia. No one knows what their assignment is with regards to Russia."
National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers has reportedly expressed his frustration to lawmakers that Trump does not view Russia as a threat. On June 28, former U.S. ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns blasted the president during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"It is his duty, President Trump's, to be skeptical of Russia," Burns declared. "It's his duty to investigate and defend our country against a cyber offensive because Russia is our most dangerous adversary in the world today. And if he continues to refuse to act it's a dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country."
One anonymous GOP congressman asserted that Trump has been dismissive of the cyber threat because he is more concerned by accusations that members of his campaign colluded with Russian officials.
"He thinks one equates with the other," the congressional source said. "He can't admit anything that may taint his election. He is more hung up on how it affected the election outcome than what Russia did."
The Senate has passed legislation to impose a sanctions package against Russia in retaliation for its cyber meddling. The bill is currently stalled in the House.
"We haven't done anything," Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona told reporters June 27. "We passed a bill through the Senate, and it's hung up in the House. Tell me what we've done?"
The Arizona senator called on Trump to urge the House "to take up the bill we passed through the Senate. Sign it, get it out there."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer released a statement defending the administration's response to the Russian cyber campaign.
"The United States continues to combat on a regular basis malicious cyber activity, and will continue to do so without bragging to the media or defending itself against unfair media criticism," Spicer asserted.
Trump is slated to have his first meeting with Putin in Germany during the G20 summit July 7-8.
On June 29, two former White House officials disclosed that Trump had allegedly ordered his National Security Council to identify concessions he could offer Putin as a way to soften relations between the U.S. and Russia, The Guardian reports.
"[NSC] have been asked for deliverables, but there is resistance to offering anything up without anything back in return," said one former official familiar with the White House discussions.
One potential concession allegedly being discussed is the U.S. returning two Russian compounds that Obama had closed down in December 2016.
Former Department of Defense deputy assistant secretary on Russia Evelyn Farkas warned that reversing any of Obama's retaliatory measures against Russia would give Putin indirect permission to continue meddling in future U.S. elections.
"If President Trump starts to undo any of those measures, including giving back the facilities in Maryland and New York then the Russian government will believe... they got away with what they did to us and believe me, they'll try it again," Farkas argued. "Putin himself uses that phrase all the time: 'With the eating grows the appetite.'"