US lawmakers on Sunday called for a “strong response” to a massive cyberattack on government agencies and criticized President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to point the finger at Russia, which was widely blamed for the hack.
The comments – from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers – came after Trump downplayed the attack the day before and undercut his own administration’s assessment that Moscow was to blame.
“Russia is acting with impunity,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a frequent Trump critic, told CNN’s State of the Union, saying the hack was worthy of a “war environment.”
He called it “extremely dangerous” and said it had to be “answered with a very strong response”.
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Romney spoke after Trump tweeted in his first public comments on Saturday’s attack that he had been fully briefed “and everything is well under control”.
“Russia Russia Russia is the first song if something happens,” Trump went on, suggesting without providing evidence that China might “also” be involved.
Romney said he was “disappointed” with the comment but it was expected, saying, “The president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia.”
But the president “does not make our country safer” with such comments, warned top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner.
Warner said on ABC’s “This Week” he agreed with an earlier assessment by Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “all signs point to Russia” as to what was behind the attack.
It was far from the first time the president has downplayed obvious threats from Russia, which denied participation in the hack.
The attackers managed to break through computer networks using enterprise management network software from Texas-based IT company SolarWinds.
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US government agencies, including the Treasury Department, were reportedly affected, but it also hit targets worldwide, with the list of victims still popping up, researchers said.
Dramatic details of the extraordinarily large-scale attack emerged as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office next month amid already high tensions with Moscow.
“Those responsible for this will face consequences,” Biden’s new chief of staff Ron Klain told CBS’s “Face the Nation” attacks on our country. “
Warner said there was no evidence that classified networks were breached in the hack and downplayed Romney’s war comparison.
Still, he stressed, it would be very bad American policy to leave such an attack unanswered and, frankly, simply invite Russians or others to continue this type of malicious activity.