Here are excerpts from the story by “Washington Secrets” columnist Paul Bedard:
- Rosenberg, who provided the survey to Secrets, pointed to the finding that over 50 percent of Americans are concerned that Trump isn’t taking the treat seriously and that the White House has gone “radio silent” instead of criticizing the Kremlin.
- “He has been tougher on [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions than Putin,” said the author whose books are popular with official Washington, including Vice President Mike Pence.
- He added that the concerns about the Putin-Trump relationship could become an issue in the 2018 midterms if the president doesn’t get behind the public’s demand for tougher action.
As Thursday unfolded, we began to see signs that President Trump and his team are beginning to get tougher with Putin. Consider:
- PRESIDENT TRUMP CAUTIOUSLY POINTED AT MOSCOW FOR NERVE-AGENT ATTACKS IN THE U.K. — “President Trump said on Thursday that it ‘certainly looks’ as if Moscow is behind the poisonings of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom,” reported The Hill. “‘I spoke with the prime minister and we are in deep discussions — a very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it,’ Trump told reporters, referring to British Prime Minister Theresa May. ‘Something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously.'”
- THE PRESIDENT IMPOSED NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN INDIVIDUALS & COMPANIES: “The Trump administration on Thursday sanctioned 19 Russian individuals and five Russian entities for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election and engaging in cyber-attacks,” reported Fox News. “The announcement was made by the Department of the Treasury and includes the 13 Russians who were recently indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.”
- THE PRESIDENT ISSUED A JOINT STATEMENT WITH NATO ALLIES AGAINST RUSSIAN NERVE-AGENT ATTACKS IN THE U.K. — “The UK confirmed the use of a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia and briefed Allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible. The UK also confirmed that this was an indiscriminate and reckless attack against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk,” noted the statement. “NATO has repeatedly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called on those responsible to be held to account. NATO regards any use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security.“
- THE PRESIDENT DIRECTED U.N. AMBASSADOR NIKKI HALEY TO MAKE A TOUGH STATEMENT AGAINST RUSSIA — “U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Wednesday the United States believes Russia is responsible for the attempted assassination of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain — and the U.N. Security Council should hold the Kremlin ‘accountable,'” reported NBC News. “‘The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent,’ Haley said at a Security Council meeting in New York. Haley said the United States stood in ‘absolute solidarity’ with Britain after the country expelled 23 Russian diplomats in response to the chemical attack last week on the ex-spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia.”
- BLAMED RUSSIA FOR CYBER ATTACKS AGAINST U.S. ELECTRICAL GRID — “The Trump administration on Thursday blamed the Russian government for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the U.S. power grid, marking the first time the United States has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure,” reported Reuters. “Beginning in March 2016, or possibly earlier, Russian government hackers sought to penetrate multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing, according to a U.S. security alert published Thursday….The decision by the United States to publicly attribute hacking attempts of American critical infrastructure was ‘unprecedented and extraordinary,’ said Amit Yoran, a former U.S. official who founded DHS’s Computer Emergency Response Team.”
And earlier in the week, the President made another positive move, tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo to serve as the new Secretary of State. As I wrote on this page, Pompeo is a fantastic choice. No one gets the Putin threat better than he does. He’s experienced, clear-eyed, tough, and he has the ear and confidence of the President, unlike the honorable but unsuccessful Rex Tillerson.
This is all movement in the right direction, and it’s encouraging. But it’s not enough.
Much more must be done, including:
- The President needs to impose far more — and far tougher — sanctions against Russian officials and oligarchs to punish them for their crimes and prevent new crimes. Follow their money. Freeze their assets. Make it difficult or even impossible for them to use or move their money from U.S. and European banks. Prevent these gangsters from having the freedom to travel into the U.S. and NATO countries. In short: hit the Russians where it really hurts, in their wallets.
- The President needs to speak out more clearly and more firmly against Putin’s aggressions in comments, speeches, interviews and Tweets.
- The President needs to deliver a major address to the American people defining just how serious a threat Vladimir Putin and his regime pose to the U.S. and our allies, and laying out a comprehensive series of strategies to contain and counter the threat, including cyber attacks against our economy, energy and electoral system.
- The President needs to build up more U.S. and NATO deterrent forces in the three lightly-defended Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, NATO allies each — to prevent Putin from being tempted to grab them.
- The President also ought to host a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and other NATO leaders to discuss and implement additional unified strategies.
Evidence of Vladimir Putin’s brazen aggression against the U.S. and our NATO allies is mounting by the day. Consider just a few of the headlines this week: