Ex-Homeland Security head: Trump is ‘sending signals’ that Russian hacking is tolerated

Julia Munslow
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that President Trump is “sending signals” that Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election is acceptable.

“Frankly, the current administration, the current president, through his rhetoric, is kind of sending the signals that this is something that will be tolerated,” Johnson said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday. “And so powerful actors like the Russians, they look at what they think will happen if they do something, and we’ve got to make this kind of behavior cost-prohibitive.”

Johnson, who served under President Barack Obama during his second term, said that he has yet to see a “strong statement of condemnation” about Russia’s behavior from Trump.

“If the signal being sent from the administration in power is that ‘this [kind of interference] will be tolerated, we don’t mind,’ then that obviously will factor into their thinking,” Johnson said.

Last October, the Obama administration publicly said that it was “confident” that the Russians were responsible for hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump has downplayed allegations of the Russian cyberattacks, and in a recent series of tweets called the reports a “big Dem scam” and “big Dem HOAX!”

But Johnson believes the Russians or other state actors “will be back,” according to his Thursday testimony about the cyberattacks before the House Intelligence Committee. He said he was concerned about the security of future elections, and expressed his frustration that his attempts to halt the hacking were not taken seriously by the DNC or state election officials.

Johnson said Friday he believes that America needs to toughen cybersecurity around its election infrastructure, and that Trump must take action on the U.S. intelligence gathered about the cyberattacks to prevent future breaches.

“It’s up to the Trump administration … to send the signal that intervening in our democracy will not be permitted,” Johnson said Friday.

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