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U.S. Cyber security unit with Russia- Republicans deride Trump’s idea.

U.S. President
Donald Trump said on Sunday he and Russia’s president had discussed
forming a cyber security unit, an idea harshly criticized by Republicans
who said Moscow could not be trusted after its alleged meddling in the
2016 U.S. election.
Tweeting
after his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, 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 a summit of the Group of 20
nations in Hamburg, Germany.

Three
Republican senators – Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of
Arizona and Mario Rubio of Florida – blasted the idea.

“It’s
not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it’s pretty close,” Graham
told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, saying that Trump’s apparent
willingness to “forgive and forget” stiffened his resolve to pass
legislation imposing sanctions on Russia.

“There
has been no penalty,” McCain, who chairs the Senate armed services
committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” program according to a CBS
transcript. “Vladimir Putin … got away with literally trying to change
the outcome … of our election.”
“Yes, it’s time to move forward. But there has to be a price to pay,” he added.

Rubio,
on Twitter, said: “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is
akin to partnering with (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad on a
‘Chemical Weapons Unit’.”
Trump
argued for rapprochement with Moscow in his campaign but has been unable
to deliver because his administration has been dogged by investigations
into the allegations of Russian interference in the election and ties
with his campaign.

Special
Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the matter, including whether
there may have been any collusion on the part of Trump campaign
officials, as are congressional committees including both the House and
Senate intelligence panels.

Those
probes are focused almost exclusively on Moscow’s actions, lawmakers and
intelligence officials say, and no evidence has surfaced publicly
implicating other countries despite Trump’s suggestion that others could
have been involved.

Moscow has denied any interference, and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.

Representative
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told
CNN’s “State of the Union” program Russia could not be a credible
partner in a cyber security unit.

“If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow,” Schiff added.

Separately,
U.S. government officials said that a recent hack into business systems
of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies was carried out by
Russian government hackers, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

‘TIME TO MOVE FORWARD’ WITH RUSSIA

Trump said he “strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it.”
He
added: “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save
lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with
Russia!”

In Trump’s first attempt at ending the
six-year Syrian civil war, the United States, Russia and Jordan on
Friday reached a ceasefire and “de-escalation agreement” for
southwestern Syria. The ceasefire was holding hours after it took effect
on Sunday, a monitor and two rebel officials said.

In
another tweet, Trump contradicted his Secretary of state, Rex
Tillerson, by saying “sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with
President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian
problems are solved!”
The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Tillerson on Friday told reporters Trump had told Putin U.S. lawmakers were pushing for additional sanctions against Russia.

The
Senate has passed legislation which would put into law sanctions,
including on mining and other industries, previously established via
former President Barack Obama’s executive orders. The bill must pass the
House of Representatives before it could go to the White House for
Trump’s signature or veto.

McCain
criticized Tillerson for having said about Syria, “by and large, our
(U.S. and Russian) objectives are exactly the same. How we get there, we
each have a view. Maybe they have got the right approach and we have
got the wrong approach.”
Russia,
and Iran, have backed keeping Assad in power. Trump, like his
predecessor Barack Obama, has focused on fighting Islamic State, leaving
for later the question of Assad’s fate.
“The
Russians knew that Bashar al-Assad was going to use chemical weapons.
And to say that maybe we have got the wrong approach?” McCain said.
Asked if he regretted voting for Tillerson as secretary of state, he
replied: “Sometimes I do.”

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington, U.S., from the G20 Summit in Hamburg, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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