President Trump personally confirmed in an interview with The Washington Post that he authorized a 2018 cyberattack against the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm responsible for meddling in the 2016 elections.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to downplay and undercut similar Russian threats to the 2020 elections.
A U.S. cyber command operation disrupted the IRA’s internet access on 2018’s midterms election day and the days following. They did so to prevent the troll farm’s efforts to undermine public faith in election results. Earlier, the operation involved directly messaging IRA employees on their personal accounts to warn them against meddling in American affairs.
The New York Times reported on these attacks in Feb. 2019, but Trump confirmed that he had authorized them in an interview with the Washington Post‘s Marc A. Thiessen that published on Friday. When Thiessen asked Trump “whether he had launched the attack,” Trump reportedly replied: “Correct.”
Trump went on to criticize the Obama administration for not doing enough to stop the 2016 election interference. The Obama administration’s actions included expelling 35 Russian diplomats, closing two Russian compounds on American soil, levying sanctions, and putting in place counter-cyberattack measures it would be up to the Trump administration to utilize.
Trump’s confirmation of the attacks follows recent revelations that his administration ignored reports that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban for killing American troops. Trump initially claimed he did not know about the allegations, and then dismissed the reports as a “hoax.”
Interference in the 2020 election has become a contentious issue. Joe Biden has called on Facebook to do more to stop meddling by foreign operatives.
Earlier in 2020, President Trump reportedly met a national intelligence briefing of Russia’s plans to interfere in the 2020 elections with hostility. The director of national intelligence has since been replaced with what the New York Times describes as a Trump “loyalist.” The new director has stopped including Democrats from congress in intelligence briefings on the matter and denies that the interference is intended to aid Trump in the elections.