SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said Sunday he sees the recently-discovered cyber hack against the U.S. as a form of cyber warfare that could “cripple us” as a country, and he believes President Donald Trump has a “blind spot” for Russia.
Romney also said in a pair of appearances on network news programs on Sunday that he is “disappointed” in the president for speculating that someone other than Russia is responsible for the cyber hack.
Trump tweeted on Saturday that news reports of the cyber hack have been overblown and that “everything is well under control.”
The president also speculated that the hacks could have come from China, despite federal law enforcement officials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blaming Russia for the hacks that went on for at least nine months undetected before officials discovered them last weekend.
The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2020
“Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA,” Trump tweeted Saturday.
Romney said Russia’s actions require a response.
“This demands a response, and the response you’d expect to occur would be a cyber response. I don’t know if we have the capacity to do that in a way that would be in the same scale or an even greater scale to what Russia has applied to us, but this is something we have to address as soon as possible,” Romney said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“But I think we’ve come to recognize that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia. And the reality here is that the experts, the people who really understand how our systems work and how computers work and software and so forth, that thousands upon thousands of the CIA and the NSA and the Department of Defense have determined that this came from Russia,” he said.
When asked whether the cyber hack was an act of war or espionage, Romney noted it gave Russia the ability to take out essential utilities in the country.
He likened the move to what the U.S. did during the Iraq War when it disabled communication towers in Baghdad.
“Well, what Russia has done is put in place a capacity to potentially cripple us, in terms of our electricity, our water, our communications. I mean, this is the same sort of thing one can do in a wartime setting,” Romney said on the NBC program.
Through the hack, Russia accessed the agency responsible for the country’s nuclear weapons capacities and research, according to Romney.
When asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” how the Senate will respond to Trump’s recent reported efforts to have the election results overthrown, Romney said: “Well, it’s not going to happen. That’s going nowhere.”
“And I understand the president is casting about, trying to find some way to have a different result than the one that was delivered by the American people. But it’s really sad in a lot of respects, and embarrassing, because the president could right now be writing the last chapter of this administration with a victory lap with regards to the vaccine,” Romney said.
While the vaccine approvals were an “extraordinary success” for the president, he is instead posting conspiracy theories “and things that are so nutty and loopy that people are shaking their head, wondering, ‘What in the world has gotten into this man?’ And I think that’s unfortunate, because he has more accomplishments than this last chapter suggests he’s going to be known for,” Romney said on the CNN show.
The Republican Party has “changed pretty dramatically,” Romney said.
“And by that I mean that the people who consider themselves Republican and voted for President Trump I think is a different cohort than the cohort that voted for me. Not entirely of course, but in many respects,” he said.
He said the party is trying to see “who could be the most like President Trump” for the 2024 race.
“There’ll be some differences in personality, but I think the direction you’re seeing is one he set out and I don’t see a different course being considered by those who are looking for 2024,” Romney said.
“I’d like to see a different version of the Republican Party, but my side is very small these days,” he said, noting he believes the party will eventually “gravitate back to the principles that formed it,” including “pushing back on nations like Russia, authoritarian regimes,” balancing the budget, and welcoming legal immigration.
Despite seeing himself as an outlier in the Republican Party, Romney said he doesn’t plan on leaving it as some others in Congress have done.
“I think I’m more effective in the Republican Party, continuing to battle for the things I believe in,” the senator said on “State of the Union.”
“And I think, ultimately, the Republican Party will return to the roots that have been formed over the — well, the century. So, we will get back at some point. And hopefully, people will recognize we need to take a different course than the one we’re on right now.”