Speed Reads

Russian election meddling

NSA chief Mike Rogers warns that America's weak response to Russian manipulation emboldens Putin

Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is still trying to meddle in American elections, President Trump has not taken sufficient action to dissuade such interference, and specifically, Trump has not granted Rogers authority to counter Russian cyberattacks and hacking operations where they originate.

There is bipartisan concern in Congress about Trump not sanctioning Russians, as Congress directed him to. "Not just the sanctions but more broadly, my concern is, I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion, 'There's little price to pay here, and that therefore I can continue this activity,'" Rogers told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The Russians "have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior," he added, and "if we don't change the dynamic here, this is going to continue."

Under questioning from Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Rogers said he is doing what he can to thwart Russian cyber warfare, but "I don't have the day-to-day authority" to take the fight to Russia, and neither Trump, the Pentagon, nor the Justice Department has granted it to him. Reed, frustrated, asked: "We're watching them intrude on our elections, spread misinformation, become more sophisticated, try to achieve strategic objectives that you have recognized, and we're just essentially sitting back and waiting?'' Rogers said not exactly, but "it's probably fair to say that we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors that we are seeing."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted later Tuesday that "nobody is denying [Rogers] the authority," without providing clear answers about what the Trump administration is doing to thwart Russian interference. CNN's legal experts were skeptical of Sanders' rebuttal, as you can watch above. Rogers, a holdover from the Obama administration, is retiring in the spring.