Trump walks back joint U.S.-Russia ‘impenetrable cyber security unit’

President Trump floated on Sunday morning the idea of creating a cybersecurity unit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he backtracked later that day after receiving harsh criticism.

“Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..” Trump tweeted Sunday.

The idea was received with outrage from many lawmakers, including Republicans, who pointed out that, according to American intelligence agencies, Russia was behind the cyberattacks on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, part of its effort to influence the election for Trump.

“It’s not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it’s pretty close,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Graham called Trump’s meeting with Putin “pretty disastrous,” and said that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia.

“This obviously should not happen–& obviously will not happen,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., tweeted about the unit.

Later Sunday morning, the administration was still defending the proposal. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, speaking on the ABC talk show “This Week,” called floating the idea with Putin a “significant accomplishment.”

Later that day Trump walked back the idea, saying that such a unit “can’t” happen, while calling attention to an agreement about a ceasefire in Syria, which “can&did” happen.

In a meeting with Trump at the G-20 summit last week, Putin “vehemently denied” the claims of Russian interference, Trump tweeted.

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Getty
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Getty

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Trump and Putin had not committed to any particular cybersecurity effort but noted that the two leaders are prepared to work on the issue.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday on CNN that “we can’t trust Russia, and we won’t ever trust Russia,” but noted that the U.S. needs to “get together with Russia” to work on cybersecurity.

“We need to tell them what we think should happen, shouldn’t happen, and if we talk to them about it, hopefully we can cut this out and get them to stop,” Haley said.

Trump appears ready to work with the Kremlin, tweeting, “Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

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