Durbin Calls on Trump to Respond to Russian Cyberattacks on French Election—and Ours
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Trump Administration to respond to reports of Russian cyberattacks on the French presidential election. In letters to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and FBI Director James Comey, Durbin called for a detailed accounting of the Administration’s assessment and planned response to the attack on America’s oldest ally.
“The recent hacking attack on the campaign of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is acting with impunity after the lack of accountability for Russia’s act of cyber war against the United States during last year’s election,” Durbin said. “It is the height of irresponsibility that President Trump still denies Russia’s act of cyber war against our election. I fear that this troubling message from the top of the Administration has resulted in inadequate measures to help our allies and our own states protect against such future Russian attacks.”
Full text of Durbin’s letter:
May 9, 2017
The Honorable Rod Rosenstein The Honorable Daniel R. Coats
Deputy Attorney General Director of National Intelligence
U.S. Department of Justice Washington, DC 20511
Washington, DC 20530
The Honorable John F. Kelly The Honorable James B. Comey, Jr.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, DC 20528 Washington, DC 20535
Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, Secretary Kelly, Director Coats, and Director Comey:
I am deeply concerned that Russia may be responsible for the recent hacking attack on the campaign of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, which suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is acting with impunity after the lack of accountability for Russia’s act of cyber war against the United States during last year’s election. Mr. Macron’s victory in Sunday’s election does not diminish the need for the Trump Administration to take this attack seriously and to work closely with the French government to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent similar attacks from taking place in the future. I would therefore appreciate a detailed accounting of the Trump Administration’s assessment of the attack on the French election and the Administration’s response to this attack.
On October 7, 2016, seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies made a damning determination that a foreign adversary deliberately interfered in our election in support of its preferred candidate. The warnings and evidence were overwhelming and a harbinger of future such interference in our elections and those of our Western democratic allies. The conclusions were stark, that Russia would continue to try to undermine confidence in Western democracies and support candidates seen as sympathetic to weakening the Western security alliance. Tragically, a refusal to acknowledge and respond to this serious security threat has resulted in what may have been a Russian attack on the recent French election—and it also leaves our nations at great risk of future such attacks.
Early evidence reportedly points to Russian efforts to hack into the campaign of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron. His campaign called it a “massive and coordinated” hacking operation with the familiar potential to destabilize the election at the last minute. The attacks in France follow a similarly troubling pattern of Russian meddling in recent elections in Germany and the Netherlands and complement ongoing Russian testing and buzzing of Western military defenses in and around Europe. It is of course not surprising that such cyber acts of war continue given the lack of response by this current administration and Congress to the attack on the U.S. election. As one Polish security expert told me recently, the Russians will be watching to see how the United States responds to an attack on its election and will feel emboldened in the absence of any such action—and that appears to be what has happened.
Accordingly, I request responses to the following urgent questions:
- Does the Administration assess that the Russians launched cyberattacks and other acts of disinformation on the French election?
- Has the Administration publicly or privately condemned the Russian actions against the French and other Western elections?
- What has the Administration done to help the French and other Western allies identify and protect against Russian cyber and disinformation campaigns? What is it doing to warn and help allies of such future actions?
- What is the Administration doing to retaliate against such attacks?
- What is the Administration doing to thwart such attacks against future elections in the United States and to help U.S. state governments do the same?
- What is the Administration doing with Congressional leadership to pass appropriate legislation sanctioning Russia for its actions and preventing such attacks in the future?
Quite frankly it is the height of irresponsibility that President Trump still denies Russia’s act of cyber war against our election. I fear that this troubling message from the top of the Administration has resulted in inadequate measures to help our allies and our own states protect against such future Russian attacks. Any such continued inaction and denial are a serious abdication of the Administration’s urgent national security responsibilities and must be corrected.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
RICHARD J. DURBIN
United States Senator
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