US gets tougher on Russia


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

In its toughest challenge to Russia to date, the Trump administration accused Moscow on Thursday of an elaborate plot to penetrate America’s electric grid, factories, water supply and even air travel through cyber hacking. The U.S. also hit targeted Russians with sanctions for alleged election meddling for the first time since President Donald Trump took office.

The list of Russians being punished includes all 13 indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, a tacit acknowledgement by the administration that at least some of Mueller’s Russia-related probe has merit.

Trump has repeatedly sought to discredit Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, but the sanctions appeared to rely on the special counsel’s legal conclusions in deciding who should be named. The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.

The named Russians – 19 in all – are unlikely to have any assets in the United States that would be covered, making the move largely symbolic. But it could help inoculate the president from persistent claims he’s afraid or unwilling to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin or to fight back against efforts to undermine America’s democracy and domestic affairs.

“We’re going to be tough on Russia until they decide to change their behavior,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. At the same time, she left open the possibility of better U.S.-Russia cooperation, arguing that “if we can work together to combat world threats on things like North Korea, then we should.”

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