Trump faults DNC in Russian email hacks

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President Trump blamed Democratic officials for having weak cyber defenses that allowed hackers to compromise their email systems ahead of the 2016 election in a recent interview.

Trump faulted the Democratic National Committee for lacking  “the proper defensive devices” to safeguard against cyber intrusions in an interview with the Associated Press, according to a transcript published over the weekend.

Trump also indicated that his praise for WikiLeaks on the campaign trail last year did not actually mean he supports the organization, which was involved in publishing hacked emails from the DNC and former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

The U.S. intelligence community said in January that the Russian government had ordered an influence campaign during the election to undermine democracy and damage Clinton. The GRU, Russia’s main intelligence agency, targeted the DNC and high-level Democratic officials and passed hacked material to WikiLeaks, the intelligence community assessed. 

{mosads}On Friday, Trump took aim at the DNC when asked about WikiLeaks’ involvement in the influence campaign, arguing that the DNC did not have the same defenses as the Republican National Committee. 

“You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management,” Trump said, referring to the DNC. “But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans.”

“They shouldn’t have allowed it to get out,” Trump later said. He went on to raise questions about why the DNC denied the FBI access to the hacked servers.

FBI Director James Comey said in January that there was evidence that hackers gained access to old email domains of the RNC but that none of the information was released. Neither the Trump campaign nor the current RNC was successfully hacked, he said. 

Trump praised WikiLeaks on the campaign trail last year after the organization had published hacked emails from the DNC and Podesta, saying “I love WikiLeaks” at a rally in Pennsylvania.

Trump told the AP that he was directing attention to the information released, not supporting the organization for leaking it.

“When WikiLeaks came out … never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it. When WikiLeaks came out, all I was just saying is, ‘Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff,’” he said. 

“No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information,” Trump said when pressed.

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on WikiLeaks over its recent disclosures of CIA documents, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo calling it a “non-state hostile intelligence service” this month in his first major address since taking the top intelligence post. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week that arresting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was a “priority,” after reports emerged that U.S. federal prosecutors were preparing charges to seek Assange’s arrest.

The Justice Department inquiry dates back as far as 2010, when WikiLeaks released classified documents stolen by former Army soldier Chelsea Manning. 

Trump told the AP that he is not involved in making a decision about pursuing Assange’s arrest. 

“I am not involved in that decision, but if Jeff Sessions wants to do it, it’s OK with me,” he said. “I didn’t know about that decision, but if they want to do it, it’s OK with me.”

Tags Hillary Clinton Jeff Sessions Russia

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