The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says the Trump administration should ensure there are "meaningful consequences" for Russia's hacks during the presidential election.
“We must continue to call out Moscow for election interference,” said Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) during remarks at the RSA Conference, an annual gathering of cybersecurity industry leaders in San Francisco.
“If we don’t hold the line on sanctions and deliver meaningful consequences, they will do it again. And they will do it to our allies.”
McCaul also said that he has encouraged the administration to develop a new national strategy on cybersecurity “as soon as possible.”
Such a strategy would involve regular “cyber exercises” with foreign governments and developing clear responses, including sanctions, for hostile cyber actions.
“This requires strong leadership from the top, a willingness to track down rogue hackers, and a determination to hold hostile countries accountable for bad behavior,” McCaul said, according to his prepared remarks.
“We cannot allow foreign adversaries to use cyber intrusions to meddle in our domestic affairs, especially our democratic process,” he continued. “That’s a redline we should not allow anyone to cross.”
There has been fierce debate among lawmakers about how the new administration should respond to Russia's hacking of Democratic groups and individuals in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
The Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled Russian intelligence operatives from the United States.
Democratic and Republican senators have joined to introduce comprehensive sanctions legislation targeting Russia for the election meddling and other behavior.
But President Trump has treated the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russia’s election hacks with skepticism and has said he wants closer ties with Moscow.
Concerns about Trump’s potential ties to Moscow have grown following the resignation Monday night of national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn is said to have discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia in a telephone call with Russia’s ambassador to the United States ahead of Trump’s inauguration and misled the White House about the call.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer insisted Tuesday that Trump has been “incredibly tough on Russia.”
McCaul has long advocated for reform at the Department of Homeland Security and for consolidating the department’s cybersecurity efforts. The Republican lawmaker reiterated those points on Tuesday and called for better information sharing between the U.S. government, private sector companies and foreign allies.
He also sounded the alarm over the developing capabilities of nation states, terrorists, and other hostile actors in cyber space, in the absence of a strong U.S. cybersecurity strategy.
“I get briefed on these threats every week,” McCaul said. “It’s clear to me that our adversaries are turning digital breakthroughs into digital bombs. And from Russian and Chinese hacking to brand-name breaches, our cyber rivals are overtaking our defenses.”
McCaul is planning to hold a hearing on cyber threats and DHS’s cyber defenses at the beginning of March.