President Trump met with President Putin at the G20 Summit, and the Great United States / Russia Beef of 2016 has been settled. Trump says he asked Putin if Russia interfered in the election, and Putin “vehemently” denied it — meaning Trump can now move forward with Russia to solve what he calls the “Ukrainian & Syrian problems.” (The Ukrainian problem should also be easy since Putin denies that there are any Russian troops in Ukraine. They’re just on vacation!) Anyway, Trump also tweeted this bombshell of US-Russia relations in his early Sunday G20 recap:
What does this mean? We have some questions.
1. Does Trump think Russia was involved in 2016 election hacks?
Trump has been reluctant to finger Russia as the culprit of attacks on the 2016 election, and just three days ago before meeting Putin he said “nobody really knows” who was involved. But he does admit it could have been Russia. “I think it could very well have been Russia. I think it could well have been other countries,” he said. “I won’t be specific.”
2. Okay, but if Russia could be involved... why would you ask Russia to help guard against election hacking?
I’ll let Trump’s colleagues finish this thought.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham this morning on Meet The Press:
“It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio:
3. Where will this Cyber unit work?
Are a bunch of bears going to move into an annex in the Pentagon? Will it be easier for Russia to target Pentagon workers with malware when they’re inside the building? Or will this be an Airbnb situation where hackers sit on their beds? Does WeWork have a counterintelligence group membership plan?
4. What are “many other negative things?”
Could be anything, really.
Maybe it’s Russian government hackers who have been hacking energy and nuclear companies. Or a Russian group that hacked Dow Jones for stock tips. Or Russian officials who hired criminals to hack 500 million Yahoo accounts. Or Russia-linked hackers who blackmailed liberal groups by threatening email leaks. Or Russia-linked hackers who tried to meddle in the French presidential election. Or a Russian teen who allegedly hacked Target and stole personal data from 70 million customers.
5. What does “impenetrable” mean?
What is being penetrated or not penetrated in this scenario? The joint US / Russia Cyber Security unit itself? The entire election system? “Many other negative things?” Will the Cyber Unit be penetrating other units to make sure the US and / or Russia is not being penetrated, and will this compromise allies of the United States who are adversaries of Russia?
Based on previous statements, we know there are a few things that probably won’t become impenetrable. One are Hillary Clinton’s emails, which Trump asked Russia to hack during the election. Also, President Obama’s college records:
6. Will Trump use cyberattacks on Russia if Russia hacks the election again?
The US prepared cyberattacks to use against Russia in the event it tried to hack our election, but it doesn’t seem like President Obama used them. (One of Trump’s favorite points on Russian hacking: why didn’t Obama do anything about it?)
Will Trump actually use cyber attacks against Russia if they’re found with their cyber hands in our cyber pockets in the next election? Will an impenetrable US / Russia Cyber Unit make these attacks futile? Does Russia even exist?
7. Who else has Trump partnered with for cybersecurity efforts?
Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose own cybersecurity consulting website ran on a free CMS called Joomla! and an outdated version of PHP that is extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks.
8. I’m not crazy, but I feel like I’m going crazy. Russia definitely interfered in the 2016 election, right?
Update, 9PM ET:
9. Does Trump himself actually want to form the Cyber Security unit?
Well, that clears it up.