The Trump administration should use its offensive cyber capabilities to “embarrass” Russian President Vladimir Putin for meddling in the 2016 White House race, according to Sen. John McCain.
“I’m of the opinion that unless Putin is made to regret his decision he will return to the scene of the crime again and again,” the Arizona Republican wrote in “The Restless Wave,” his new book scheduled to be released May 22.
“To make Putin deeply regret his assault on the foundation of our democracy — free and fair elections — we should seriously consider retaliating with the kinds of weapons he used,” Mr. McCain wrote, according to excerpts published Thursday. “We have cyber capabilities too. They should be used to expose the epic scale of his regime’s corruption or to embarrass [Mr. Putin] in other ways.”
The Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race in part by using state-sponsored operatives including hackers, professional internet trolls and propagandists to peddle stolen data and misinformation damaging to the campaign of President Trump’s opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence officials concluded during the Obama administration.
“Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you,” former President Barack Obama responded in December 2016. “But it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful methodical way. Some of it we do publicly. Some of it we will do in a way that they know but not everybody will.”
Mr. Obama authorized the U.S. to place cyber weapons within Russia’s infrastructure for his successor to detonate in response to Moscow’s meddling, The Washington Post published after he left office, citing more than three dozen current and former U.S officials.
Mr. Trump has been accused of doing little to discourage further cyberattacks, however, albeit while federal investigations conduct an ongoing inquiry into whether any individuals associated with his election campaign conspired with Russian operatives.
“The lack of decisive and clearly articulated consequences to cyberattacks against our country has served as an open invitation to foreign adversaries and malicious cyber actors to continue attacking the United States,” a bipartisan group of 14 senators wrote the White House in March.
Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 race, and the White House has denied colluding with the Kremlin.
Mr. McCain, a six-term senator, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer last year and said he won’t be seeking re-election.