Rubio: Top US political groups should expect Russian cyberattacks

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOn The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week Trump declares national emergency at border Democrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans MORE (R-Fla.) is warning that any major group involved in American politics should prepare for potential cyberattacks amid new scrutiny of Russian efforts to target a pair of conservative groups.

“Every entity in America involved in politics at a high level at this point should expect that they are a target of an influence campaign by Russia, potentially by China,” Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s a very low-cost way to inflict damage on your opponent … they can all afford to have high-level electronic intrusions that allow them to disseminate false information, drive narratives and cause chaos among us,” he added.

Rubio was weighing in on news that Microsoft had shut down six websites the company said were created by hackers connected to Russia’s military that were targeting conservative think tanks and the U.S. Senate. 

Microsoft said the websites had targeted the conservative think tanks the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, as well as U.S. Senate domains that were "not specific to particular offices" or senators.

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall Clinton on GOP promoting Trump 'stronger together' quote: Now copy my policies too MORE (D-Va.) raised doubt that Republicans and the Trump administration would change their handling of Russian interference following Microsoft's revelation this week.

“I have a hard time believing it will change how the president will approach it — he’s continuing to deny, it and I don’t see any reason to suggest he’s going to change his unconvincing denials," Kaine said.

Rubio argued that the Trump administration has imposed tough penalties on Russians.

“I understand people’s concern about the rhetoric and not recognizing that it was Russia” that interfered with the 2016 presidential election, Rubio said.

"But the reality of it is that this president has imposed more sanctions on Vladimir Putin [than] Obama ever did. … What needs to happen now is they need to know how much higher the price could be if they do it again,” he said. 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) emphasized that lawmakers should continue to put a focus on Russia's election meddling. 

“There is no question whatsoever that Russia is involved in trying to create disunity in our country,”  Corker told reporters shortly after concluding the first of several hearings on U.S.-Russia relations. 

“[The Russians] are winning when we are having this conversation … this is a threat to our nations, our nation has become increasingly distrustful,” Corker said. “We’ve got to counter that.” 

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, said senators will hear from the administration on Wednesday “to understand what it is that in fact [the Russians] are doing, but it doesn’t seem to me we have deterred Russian aggression.”

— Molly Hooper