In an interview with Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post, President Donald Trump has confirmed that the US government had conducted a covert cyber attack against Russia in 2018. He specifically mentioned going after a troll farm known as Russia’s Internet Research Agency. According to him, the Agency supposedly interfered with both the 2016 presidential elections and the 2018 midterms.
When Thiessen asked President Trump if the US government had launched the attack, he simply replied, “Correct.” He then went on to state that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, knew that the Russians were meddling. However, according to President Trump, Obama didn’t elaborate on the topic because “he read phony polls. So, he thought [Hillary Clinton] was going to win.”
Obama did announce sanctions against the Russians in December 2016 as a response to Russia’s potential meddling in the election. Furthermore, he had expelled a few Russian diplomats. However, President Trump claimed that Obama did not act on the US intelligence regarding the potential Russian election tampering, unlike Trump’s own administration. “Look, we stopped it,” Trump stated in his interview with Thiessen.
This is the first official confirmation from Trump that the cyber attack against Russia took place in 2018. The goal of the operation was to take down the Agency, supposedly bankrolled by a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. As Trump put it, they carried out the operation to prevent any interference in the midterms.
The President went on to state that this cyberattack was just one part of a broader policy to confront Putin and his administration. He told Thiessen that he had authorized sending anti-tank busters to Ukraine as another in the line of responses to Russian election and midterms interference. “Nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have,” he concluded.
Trump’s Earlier Confirmation Efforts
The Thiessen interview is the first time that President Trump has openly confirmed that there was a cyber attack. However, he did allude to it in a Fox News interview in June 2019, when talking to Steve Hilton. “I would rather not say that,” he stated, “but you can believe that the whole thing happened, and it happened during my administration.”
He went on to further elaborate that the PIAB didn’t like him talking about intelligence when Hilton asked him about not sharing the information regarding a potential cyber attack. He then went on to list all of the people that made him question the validity of the Advisory Board. Notable names included James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper. “I never believe that intelligence,” President Trump concluded.
CNN’s own Barbara Starr had also reported on the US military Cyber Command’s retaliation against the Russians. According to Starr, the Cyber Command was targeting Russian operatives in October 2018. They believed that these operatives were trying to tamper with the midterms. This retaliation was a part of a broad effort done in coordination with several key government agencies.
Marc Thiessen is a columnist for the Washington Post. He was also a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.