President Donald Trump on Saturday accused The New York Times of a “virtual act of treason” for publishing a story about U.S. digital incursions into Russia’s electrical power grid as part of an effort to battle the Kremlin’s cyber warfare.
He also tweeted that the story wasn’t true, wrapping up by calling the media “cowards” and the, as he so often does, “enemy of the people.”
Current and former U.S. officials told the Times about the deployment of American computer code into Russia’s electrical power grid and other targets both as a warning to the Kremlin and as a readied strike in case of a Russian cyberattack.
The Times responded to Trump’s attack by saying that “accusing the press of treason is dangerous.”
It cited his administration’s own officials as saying they had “no national security concerns” about the story, which was “perhaps an indication that some of the intrusions were intended to be noticed by the Russians.”
The Times story said that intelligence officials hadn’t thoroughly briefed Trump on actions against Russia because they indicated it could get back to the Kremlin, according to sources.
Shortly after Trump took office he shared highly classified information in the Oval Office with visiting Russian officials, which compromised the safety of a key source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The newspaper described “broad hesitation to go into detail” with Trump about operations against Russia “for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials.”
The Times’ story was based on three months of interviews.
Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger cautioned last year that Trump’s incessant attacks on the press were “increasingly dangerous.” Sulzberger added that the president’s “inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”