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Trump downplays Russia in first comments on cyberattack

Donald Trump, president white house
Posted at 11:17 AM, Dec 19, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is suggesting without evidence that China — not Russia — may be behind the the grave cyberattack against the United States. And he is trying to downplay the impact, as he comments for the first time on the breach.

"I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of ... discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!)," the president tweeted. Adding that the hack could have included some kind of "hit" on voting machines. There is no evidence of this, and no one within the administration has said this.

Trump's tweeted comments on Saturday contradict Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said during a media interview Friday Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the attack.

“This was a very significant effort and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” Pompeo said in the interview with radio talk show host Mark Levin.

It’s not clear exactly what the hackers were seeking, but experts say it could include nuclear secrets, blueprints for advanced weaponry, COVID-19 vaccine-related research and information for dossiers on government and industry leaders.

Officials at the White House had been prepared to put out a statement Friday afternoon that accused Russia of being “the main actor” in the hack, but were told at the last minute to stand down, according to one U.S. official familiar with the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

It is not clear whether Pompeo got that message before his interview, but officials are now scrambling to figure out how to square the disparate accounts. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the statement or the basis of Trump’s claims.

Russia has said it had “nothing to do” with the hacking.