Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, disregarded the notion of the Trump administration establishing a bilateral “working group” with Russia to crack down on cyber interference in elections, and suggested the proposal was absurd, likening it to diplomatic negotiations with a rogue North Korea.
“The establishment of a working group as reported by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to study how to curb cyber interference in elections in which the Russians would play any role, would be akin to inviting the North Koreans to participate in a commission on nonproliferation,” Schiff said in a statement Friday. “It tacitly adopts the fiction that the Russians are a constructive partner on the subject instead of the worst actor on the world stage.”
Lavrov’s proposal comes amid a new CNN report that cites US intelligence officials who say Russian spies, emboldened by the tepid response to their hacking activities from President Donald Trump and the Obama administration, were increasing their efforts to collect intelligence in America.
“It was agreed that all of these issues, including anti-terrorism efforts, fight against organized crime and hacker activities in any of their manifestations will be in focus of bilateral Russian-US cooperation,” Lavrov said, according to Russian state-owned news outlet TASS. “A bilateral working group will be set up for these ends.”
Schiff’s statement was made hours after the first meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 summit. Although Russia and the White House offered diverging reports on what was agreed upon between the two leaders, several high-profile issues, including Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and Syria’s six-year-old civil war were said to have been discussed.
Schiff also expressed skepticism in the partial ceasefire deal that was brokered between the US, Russia, and Jordan after the meeting. The “de-escalation agreement” is to go into effect at 12:00 p.m. Damascus time on Sunday.
“With respect to the ceasefire in southwest Syria, if such an agreement can truly bring about a peace in the violence and lead to a transition away from Bashar al Assad, this could be an important start,” Schiff said. “The Russians have very different interests than we do in Syria, however, and we would be wise to treat any Russian commitments with a jaundiced eye.”
“Other ceasefires have been poorly enforced and Russia will need to live up to any commitments that it has made,” Schiff said.