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US President Donald Trump says discussed forming cyber security unit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin

July 9, 2017 11:00 PM
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US President Donald Trump says discussed forming cyber security unit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin

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DONALD Trump has declared he will tackle allegations of Russian hacking by creating a joint cyber security unit - with Russia. But his son may have already undermined the deal.

Whether or not this information was gathered via hacking attacks is not made clear.

However, the embarrassing revelation - which same shortly after President Trump declared his plan to form a cyber security unit with President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit - has met with immediate distancing by the White House.

President Trump “was not aware of and did not attend” any meetings between his son and the lawyer, an official statement said.

The alleged meeting took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, just two weeks after Trump secured his nomination for the presidency.

The Times says the gathering included his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. It also says it remains unclear if the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs Clinton”.

“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” the Times quoted Donald Trump Jr. as saying.

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s first five months in office.

President Trump has declared he wants to form a cyber security unit to stop election hacking — with Russia.

This is despite Moscow being fingered as the main culprit according to his own security services.

Tweeting after his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump said now was the time to work constructively with Moscow, pointing to a ceasefire deal in southwest Syria that came into effect on Sunday.

“Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe,” he said following their talks at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

The plan was immediately attacked by US politicians, many within Mr Trump’s own Republican party.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham ridiculed it as “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard—but it’s pretty close”.

Mr Graham told host Chuck Todd that Mr Trump was “hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin is a bad guy.”

Another Republican senator, Marco Rubio, also took issue with the idea, tweeting that the Russian leader “will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner.”

In the Sunday morning tweets Mr Trump said that “it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” adding that he “strongly pressed” Mr Putin twice over Russian meddling in the 2016 election during their lengthy meeting.

He said Mr Putin “vehemently denied” the conclusions of US intelligence agencies. Mr Trump did not say whether he believed Mr Putin, tweeting that he’s “already given my opinion.”

In the same series of tweets Mr Trump pointed to a ceasefire in southern Syria brokered by the US and Russia as a sign of why it was important for the two countries to get along.

He wrote: “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

Trump administration officials backed the president’s plan, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praising Mr Trump’s cybersecurity discussion with Mr Putin, calling it a “significant accomplishment.”

“What we want to make sure is that we coordinate with Russia, that we’re focused on cybersecurity together, that we make sure that they never interfere in any Democratic elections or conduct any cybersecurity,” Mr Mnuchin said on US ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also called for cooperation with the Russians on cybersecurity, in spite of a lack of trust between Washington and Moscow.

“From a cyber standpoint, we need to get together with Russia, we need to tell them, you know, what we think should happen, shouldn’t happen, and if we talk to them about it, hopefully we can cut this out and get them to stop,” Ms Haley said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus Priebus insisted the president did not believe Mr Putin’s denial of Russian involvement in hacking the US election.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first told reporters in Germany on Friday that Mr Trump had accepted Mr Putin’s assurances that Russia hadn’t meddled — an assertion Mr Putin repeated Saturday after the Group of 20 summit.

“He asked questions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with the answers,” Mr Putin said.

Trump officials had chosen not pushed back on that account, even when pressed directly. Speaking briefly with reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday evening, both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster punted when given the chance to correct the record.

“You know, we’re not going to make comments about what other people say,” said Mr Mnuchin.

“President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that.”

However, on Sunday Mr Priebus told Fox News: “The president absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin.”

“He’s answered this question many times, he says they probably meddled in the election,” Mr Priebus continued. “They did meddle in the election.”

He said Mr Trump repeatedly pressed Mr Putin on the hacking allegations, “two times, maybe three times.”

“What the president did is he immediately came into the meeting and talked about Russian meddling in the US election,” he said. “This was not just a five minute piece of the conversation. This was an extensive portion of the meeting.”

However, Mr Priebus dismissed the Russian hacking as a routine form of cyber attack deployed in other elections “consistently over many, many years” by US rivals, including China and North Korea.

Mr Priebus backed up the vague claims from President Trump that Russia was not alone in its election interference.

“The one thing that (Mr Trump) also says, which drives the media crazy but it’s an absolute fact, is that others have as well. And that’s true. China has, North Korea has, and they have consistently over many, many years.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who participated in the meeting between the two leaders, had suggested on Friday that the two sides had, in effect, agreed to disagree on the meddling question so that they could move forward to address other pressing issues, like the civil war in Syria.

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