Trump Backtracks on Proposal to Form Cybersecurity Unit With Putin

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting. | (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday reversed his statement that he discussed forming a cybersecurity unit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying "it can't happen," after several Republican leaders criticized the proposal.

"The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen," Trump tweeted Sunday. "It can't-but a ceasefire can, & did!"

Responding to the tweet, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska wrote, "This obviously should not happen--& obviously will not happen. Why the President of the United States would tweet it is inexplicably bizarre."

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Hours earlier after his meeting with Putin at the G-20 Summit in Germany, Trump had tweeted, "Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called Trump's proposal "not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it's pretty close."

"He gave a really good speech in Poland, President Trump did, and he had what I think is a disastrous meeting with President Putin," Graham said, according to NBC News. "Two hours and 15 minutes of meetings. [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson and Trump are ready to forgive and forget when it comes to cyber-attacks on the American election of 2016."

Graham also said, "This whole idea of moving forward without punishing Russia is undercutting his entire presidency."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, also a Republican, tweeted, "Partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit.'"

"When it comes to Russia, I am dumbfounded," Graham added. "I am disappointed and, at the end of the day, he's hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin's a bad guy who tried to undercut our democracy and he's doing it all over the world. He is literally the only person that I know of that has any doubt about what Russia did in 2016."

GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and said that Putin "got away with" trying to change the result of the 2016 election with "no penalty."

"We know that Russia tried to change the outcome of our election last November. And they did not succeed," McCain said. "But there was really sophisticated attempts to do so. So far they have not paid a single price for that … If you were Vladimir Putin, who I've gotten to know over the years, you're sitting there and you got away with literally trying to change the outcome not just of our election. French election. Tried to overthrow the government of Montenegro, a beautiful little country."

When asked about Trump's idea to work with Putin on cybersecurity, McCain responded sarcastically, "I am sure Putin could be of enormous assistance, since he's doing the hacking."

U.S. intelligence agencies have said they believe Russia made efforts to try to interfere with the presidential election.

However, it was also recently revealed that a Hillary Clinton-backed firm allegedly commissioned an unverified intelligence dossier with allegations about Trump.

The Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, which, congressional sources say, is an opposition-research group for Democrats though it claims to be a "research and strategic intelligence firm," refused to answer questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee or provide records about the financing of the dossier, according to New York Post.

The 35-page dossier claims that Russia has some damaging information about Trump which could be used for purposes of blackmail to get the U.S. President to cooperate with the Russian government.

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