President Trump is rejecting a report that the US has escalated cyberattacks of its own against Russia, placing malware in its power grid, Politico reports. "Not true," the president tweeted Saturday, calling the New York Times report "a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country." Trump repeated his accusation that the news media is an "enemy of the people." US officials didn't inform the president about the operation in detail, the Times reported, for fear he would let the Russians know of it. That happened in 2017, when Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister classified information, which reportedly put an ISIS source in danger.
The power grid incursions are partly a warning to Russia to not repeat its interference in the 2016 election, officials indicated, and partly to position the US for an all-out cyberattack if relations reach a crisis. The US operation could contribute to that worsening of tensions, the Times report acknowledges. Intelligence officials have said that Russia already has inserted malware in US power plants, pipelines, and water supplies. "We thought the response in cyberspace against electoral meddling was the highest priority last year, and so that’s what we focused on," says National Security Adviser John Bolton. "But we’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in." Of the nations the US is targeting, "We will impose costs on you until you get the point." (Read more US-Russia relations stories.)