IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

US intel agencies: cyberattack was 'likely Russian in origin'

Trump's presidency began with a Russian operation against the US, which he downplayed. Four years later, his presidency is ending the same way.
Image: Three policemen patrol Red Square in Moscow
Three policemen patrol Red Square in Moscow on May 17, 2020.Yuri Kadobnov / AFP - Getty Images

A few weeks ago, it became clear that the latest cyberattack against the United States was far more severe, both in its scope and its severity, than the usual intrusion. As NBC News reported, "Hackers who targeted the federal government appear to be part of a Russian intelligence campaign aimed at multiple U.S. agencies and companies."

Soon after, one of the senators who received a classified briefing on the matter said he was "downright scared" of what he'd learned.

Yesterday, U.S. intelligence agencies were more specific about the perpetrator behind the attack.

Nearly a month after reports emerged of a massive hack of U.S. government agencies and corporations, the Trump administration announced Tuesday that it had formed a task force to deal with the repercussions of what it officially acknowledged — for the first time — was likely a damaging Russian espionage operation.... The statement said "fewer than 10" federal agencies had been compromised by "an intelligence gathering effort" that is "likely Russian in origin."

The joint statement was issued by the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) issued a statement soon after, noting in part, "It's clear from the scale of this compromise that we have a lot of work to do to harden our defenses, shore up the government's cybersecurity practices, improve the quality of intelligence collection on cyber threat actors, and increase cooperation, both within government and with the private sector to identify, fix and defend against these threats. There is likely much more to learn, and this is only the beginning of this necessary work."

What's far from clear, however, is whether the current president has any interest in learning more about the cyberattack.

Let's not forget, on Christmas week, Donald Trump made his first -- and so far, only -- comments about the intrusion, and his take was predictable. The Republican not only downplayed the hack, he also suggested China might be responsible.

The tweeted comments came after White House officials prepared to issue a formal statement accusing Russia of being "the main actor" in the cyberattack, only to be told at the last minute "to stand down."

And yet, here we are. The White House believes Russia was responsible for the attack. So does Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. So do the FBI, the NSA, the ODNI, and CISA. The current American president, however, seems oddly indifferent.

As we recently discussed, there's also a degree of irony in the symmetry: Trump's presidency began with a Russian operation against the United States. It was an attack that the Republican downplayed, lied about, and felt no need to respond to.

Four years later, Trump's presidency is ending, tragically, the exact same way.