President Trump accused the New York Times of committing a “virtual act of treason” in response to a report that said the U.S. is ramping up attacks on Russian power grid.
In a pair of tweets Saturday evening, the president called the venerable news outlet “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” in all capital letters.
…..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019
It was the latest attack on the press by a president who often rails against “fake news” and singles out news organizations such as CNN and the Washington Post for condemnation. Earlier in the day Trump tweeted the “Corrupt News Media is totally out of control – they have given up and don’t even care anymore.”
The Times’ communications team responded by tweeting, “Accusing the press of treason is dangerous. We described the article to the government before publication. As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns.”
The report, published Saturday, said the Pentagon has infiltrated Russia’s electric power grid among other unnamed targets, inserting American malware into the systems in response to heightened Russian cyber aggression and political meddling, including efforts to influence recent U.S. elections.
The move is intended as a warning to Russia and would also allow the U.S. to retaliate quickly against Russian provocation. Officials said U.S. malware has the potential to cripple Russia’s electric infrastructure and is unprecedented in terms of its reach and aggressiveness.
The warning strike was authorized by U.S. Cyber Command, which was granted extended power to conduct cyber “clandestine military activity” in order to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States” last year by Trump and Congress. That authorization followed concerns that the administration needed to respond more aggressively to Kremlin-ordered cyber attacks and hacking campaigns.
Still, administration officials said they believe Trump was not briefed on the “implants” inside Russia’s power grid. Pentagon and intelligence officials said there is concern about keeping Trump apprised of the cyber salvo against Russia for fear of how he might react.
Trump’s ties to Russia were the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but no criminal conspiracy was found.
Yet the president has been quick to side with Russia over his own intelligence network in refusing to cast blame on the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin for meddling in U.S. electoral affairs.
Mueller also outlined 10 instances of possible obstruction in his report but declined to make a determination about whether the president obstructed justice. Although Trump says he was vindicated, Democrats argue Mueller’s refusal to clear Trump on obstruction provides them a road map to continue to investigate and possibly seek impeachment. Attorney General William Barr said he and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined there was not sufficient evidence to charge the president with a crime.
Trump recently accused former FBI Director James Comey, who oversaw the beginning of the counterintelligence investigation into his 2016 campaign, of committing “treason,” a crime that is punishable by death in the U.S. Barr said he disagreed with Trump’s “treason” accusation as a legal matter.