Early Sunday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted his support for a new partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin to craft an “impenetrable cyber security unit” that would work to prevent election hacking.
Some 12 hours later, those plans were dramatically scaled back as the president said even though he discussed them, they “can’t” happen.
Asked about Trump’s comments, a Russian official told reporters on Monday that while there might not be a formal task force, the two leaders “reached an agreement” to coordinate more on cybersecurity.
The abrupt about-face came after a slew of lawmakers lambasted Trump’s proposal to guard against “election hacking and many other negative things.”
On “Meet The Press” Sunday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the plan “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.” Graham slammed the president for “forgiving and forgetting” Russian tampering in last year’s election, and said the move only increased suspicion of the Trump administration.
“The more he talks about this in terms of not being sure, the more he throws our intelligence communities under the bus, the more he’s willing to forgive and forget Putin, the more suspicion,” Graham continued. “And I think it’s going to dog his presidency until he breaks this cycle.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doubled down on those assertions on “Face the Nation,” saying Sunday he was sure Putin could surely help tackle the issue of cybersecurity “since he’s doing the hacking.”
Trump said he “strongly pressed” Putin during their meeting at the G-20 summit in Germany about Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but his counterpart “vehemently denied” any such efforts. Trump has mostly rejected any evidence of interference by Moscow, despite U.S. intelligence agencies saying Putin personally ordered an “influence campaign” to help him defeat rival Hillary Clinton.
On Twitter, Trump said he was ready to work with Putin and “move forward,” stumping a newly-formed ceasefire agreement between the U.S. and Russia in Syria. As the Washington Post notes, it would be the first diplomatic collaboration between the two countries.
“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” Trump said of the pact.
Some were quick to point out the dramatic shift in White House policy just hours after administration officials stumped the proposal on Sunday.