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Intelligence Adviser Affirms Russian Interference

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A counterterrorism adviser in the Trump White House left little room for interpretation when asked about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"There’s a pretty clear and easy answer to this and it’s 'yes,'" said chief counterterrorism adviser Thomas Bossert at the National Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, per Politico. His answer seemed to run against the Oval Office's openly skeptical position about Russian meddling in the election.

Trump had questioned the validity of the Russian meddling claims, particularly during the campaign. When "anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians," he said during a campaign speech in October 2016, according to Talking Points Memo. He has also remained unsure about the level of Russian influence while president.

Bossert, who also served under former President George W. Bush, criticized the administration of former President Barack Obama for not going far enough in punishing the Russian government after the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Obama kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two diplomatic facilities in response.

Trump said he personally questioned Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Brussels about Russian interference during the election. The two sides ended up with different accounts of the conversation; Trump said he pressed Putin, while the Kremlin stated Trump accepted Putin's denials.

Bossert was adamant against the hacking of the DNC but made sure to state the intelligence committee did not believe any manipulation of ballot boxes occurred. He also noted that the Trump White House is not in a current position to levy stricter penalties against Russia and he personally believed "offensive cyber attacks" against hackers are nearly worthless.

He also opened up the possibility of more traditional financial penalties against Russia but cautioned against expecting a resolution anytime soon.

"We’ll satisfy you, but we won’t satisfy you in enough time," Bossert said.

He said the administration is actively working on developing a "multilateral" agreement with other countries in an effort to create cybersecurity standards, according to The Hill.

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Bossert also said that the administration is continuing to evaluate long-term detention facilities overseas for captured combatants and suspected terrorists. The Guantanamo Bay prison remains a possibility as well as other "black-site" prisons in secret locations.

He was also openly critical of The New York Times' coverage of classified U.S. material, specifically disagreeing with the notion that the U.S. was responsible for exploitive computer programs it designed that may fall into the wrong hands.

Sources: Politico, Talking Points Memo, The Hill / Photo credit: Steve Bott/Flickr, AFP via Politico, Associated Press via Talking Points Memo

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