Trump accuses New York Times of 'virtual act of Treason' with Russia report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE late Saturday ramped up his attacks against The New York Times, accusing the newspaper of committing "a virtual act of Treason" over its report about the U.S. increasing cyberattacks on Russia's electric power grid. 

"Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia," Trump tweeted. "This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country."

Trump claimed in a separate tweet that the story was "NOT TRUE!"

"Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today," he added. "They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!"

The Times stood by its story, saying on Twitter that "accusing the press of treason is dangerous."

"We described the article to the government before publication," the newspaper's communications department said. "As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns." 

The Times on Saturday published a report about the United States's efforts to penetrate Russia's power grid. The Times, citing current and former government officials, noted that the actions are a warning to Moscow on how the Trump administration is using new authorities to unleash cyber tools in an aggressive manner. 

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The officials said that the U.S. was deploying computer code within Russia's grid and other targets. The moves are reportedly part of a broader initiative "directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections," according to the Times.

“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official told the Times. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.” 

Advocates of the strategy have reportedly argued that the U.S.'s campaign is warranted, given the warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI that Russia has inserted malware that could damage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, and water supplies. 

The new cyber authorities were granted to the U.S. Cyber Command by the White House and Congress last year, according to the Times. The administration declined to comment to the Times on the specific actions it was undertaking. 

Multiple administration officials also told the newspaper that they do not believe Trump was briefed about the plans to deploy computer code into Russia's grid. Some officials within the Pentagon and intelligence community told the Times that there was hesitation to give Trump details about the operations. 

UPDATED: 12:02 p.m.