“I agree with Secretary Pompeo’s assessment. It certainly seems to be the Russians, but I am not going to talk about it any further,” Barr said at a press conference, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments last week that “We can say quite clearly that it was the Russians who were involved in this activity.”
It is Barr’s latest notable breakthrough from Trump’s political agenda. At the same press conference, he said there was no need to appoint special counsel to investigate President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and the Attorney General has disputed Trump’s false claims about widespread voter fraud.
Barr’s comments also underscore Trump’s extraordinary willingness to challenge top officials in his own administration who have identified Russia as a suspect in condemning nefarious activities.
In his first public comments on the weekend cyberattack, Trump suggested that “it may be China” that is responsible, even though White House officials had issued a statement blaming Russia for the attack and preparing to for to release this Friday afternoon. told to step down, people familiar with the plans have told CNN. Officials were initially not told why the statement was withdrawn.
The statement, the people said, blamed Russia for orchestrating the attack, but left open the possibility that other actors were involved.
Officials in the Trump administration have said the cyber attack “poses a serious risk” to networks in both the public and private sectors. At least half a dozen federal agencies – including the Cyber Division of the Department of Homeland Security and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and State – were known to be the target of the attack, which affected a software vendor’s system from a third party.
Researchers are still trying to determine which government data may have been accessed or stolen during the hack.
Trump’s reluctance to blame Russia for the hack recalls several notable incidents during his presidency in which he responded in the same way. Notably, he took the word out from Vladimir Putin on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies in 2018, when he publicly accepted the Russian president’s denial to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump has also refused to pressure Putin over US intelligence claiming that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban fighters to kill US troops in Afghanistan, at one point calling it an “issue many people said was fake news “.
This story has been updated with additional background information.