US president ridiculed on plans for cyber task force with Russia
US President Donald Trump was ridiculed by his own party yesterday after saying he planned to work with Russia on a cyber-security unit to prevent hacking of future elections.
Tweeting after his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the weekend, Mr Trump said now was the time to work constructively with Moscow, pointing to a ceasefire deal in south-west Syria that came into effect yesterday.
"Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe," he said on Twitter following their talks at a summit of the G20 nations in Hamburg.
Republican senators Lindsey Graham, an influential South Carolina Republican, and Marco Rubio of Florida, who opposed Mr Trump for their party's presidential nomination, blasted the notion.
"It's not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it's pretty close," said Senator Graham, saying that Mr Trump's apparent willingness to "forgive and forget" stiffened his resolve to pass legislation imposing sanctions on Russia.
Mr Rubio said on Twitter: "While reality & pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner.
"Partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit'," he added.
Mr Trump argued for rapprochement with Moscow in his campaign but has been unable to deliver because his administration has been dogged by investigations into the allegations of Russian interference in the election and ties with his campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the matter, including whether there may have been any collusion on the part of Trump campaign officials, as are congressional committees including both the House and Senate intelligence panels.
Those probes are focused almost exclusively on Moscow's actions, intelligence officials say, and no evidence has surfaced publicly implicating other countries despite Mr Trump's suggestion that others could have been involved.
"I don't think we can expect the Russians to be any kind of a credible partner in some kind of cyber security unit," said Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
"If that's our best election defence, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow," Mr Schiff added.
Separately, US government officials said that a recent hack into business systems of US nuclear power and other energy companies was carried out by Russian government hackers.
Mr Trump said he had raised allegations of Russian interference in the election with Mr Putin.
"I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion..."
He added: "We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!"
The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Mr Trump appeared to contradict his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who told reporters Mr Trump had told Mr Putin that several US lawmakers were pushing for additional sanctions against Russia.