Trump contradicts Pompeo, performs down alleged Russian function in hack

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo watches US President Donald Trump speak during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 on April 8, 2020 in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC.

Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump suggested on Saturday that China may be behind a cyberattack on several US government agencies and companies, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming hours earlier that Russia was likely behind the attack.

The claim adds confusion to an already complex situation as cybersecurity workers try to figure out a hack that came to light less than a week ago. At the time, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that attackers were linked to Russia.

“Russia is the number one chant if something happens because Lamestream is petrified for largely financial reasons because it is discussing the possibility that it could (it can be!)”, Trump wrote in two tweets.

A US official confirmed to NBC News on Saturday that White House officials were due to issue a statement on Friday stating that Russia was responsible for the cyberattack but had been asked to resign. The Associated Press reported on the White House’s plans earlier on Saturday. Two officials told NBC News that Trump’s tweets surprised the White House.

“Currently, the NSC is focused on investigating the circumstances of this incident and working with our interactors to defuse the situation,” the National Security Council spokesman told NBC News. “The actors behind this behavior are reacted appropriately.”

Russia was a sensitive issue for Trump. An investigation led by Robert Mueller found that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election that led to Trump becoming president. Trump said in 2019 that he never worked for Russia after the New York Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had started looking into whether he had been influenced by the Kremlin.

The shares of the management software manufacturer SolarWinds have fallen by almost 40% in the past week. During this time, it became clear how many companies have installed updates to software that contain a vulnerability that an attacker believed to have released between March and June. Cisco, Microsoft, and VMware are among the companies that have indicated in the past few days that they are affected.

The energy department confirmed Thursday that the attack had reached their business networks. Last weekend the Commerce Department announced it had been violated, and NBC News reported that the White House National Security Council said it was investigating a possible breach at the Treasury Department.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican who represents Florida, said in a Saturday tweet that “it has become increasingly clear that Russian intelligence has committed the worst cyber intrusion in our history.”

SolarWinds itself has not blamed any particular country.

“While security experts and other experts have attributed the attack to an external nation-state, we have not independently verified the identity of the attacker,” said the company on Thursday in an authorization application.

CLOCK: Suspicions of Russian hacking are growing as more organizations uncover violations

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