President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday tore into President Donald Trump's recent reaction to a hacking campaign that has torn through U.S. government agencies and businesses and that experts believe is the work of Russian intelligence.
Biden, speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, ripped Trump for an "irrational downplaying of the seriousness of this attack," and called the breach a “grave risk to our national security."
“The truth is this: The Trump administration failed to prioritize cybersecurity,” Biden said. “This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch, when he wasn’t watching.”
He added that he saw “no evidence it is under control,” pointing out that Trump “hasn’t even identified who is responsible yet.”
Biden said the Department of Defense had not briefed his transition team on the attack and vowed that when he does learn “the extent of the damage,” he would, as president, respond “in kind.”
The hack is being described as one of the most successful cyber infiltrations of U.S. government and corporate institutions in history. The hackers appear to have gotten access by first breaking into SolarWinds, a company in Austin, Texas, that provides remote information technology services to clients around the world, including a number of U.S. government agencies and major corporations. The hack began at least as early as March, though it was discovered only last week.
Experts have said the operation is the work of Russian intelligence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Russia was "pretty clearly" behind the hack.
Trump, however, has deflected blame away from Russia, contradicting top officials in his own administration and baselessly suggesting China may have been involved.
"The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of ... discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!)," Trump wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
Trump's comments are the latest example of his unwillingness to criticize Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have said interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump.
The White House was preparing on Friday to formally attribute the cyber hack to Russia in a statement but were told to stand down, a U.S. official told NBC News. The official did not say who gave the instruction.