President Trump has accused The New York Times of committing a “virtual act of treason” by publishing a story Saturday saying his administration has been targeting Russia’s power grid as part of an ongoing operation to counter cyber threats. “Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country,” Trump wrote on Twitter late Saturday. “ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he said.
The Times report relied on three-months worth of interviews with several current and former government officials, who described the deployment of American computer code into Russia’s electrical power grid in a move meant partly as a warning to Russian intelligence and partly as a pre-emptive strike in case of a cyberattack. Trump himself reportedly granted new authorities to the United States Cyber Command last year, and is also said to have personally signed off on an operation to take Russian internet troll farm Internet Research Agency offline during the 2018 midterm elections. National Security Adviser John Bolton also appeared to hint at a more aggressive cyber strategy toward Russia earlier this week.
“We thought the response in cyberspace against electoral meddling was the highest priority last year, and so that’s what we focused on. But we’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in,” he said at a conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “We will impose costs on you until you get the point.”