May 17, 2022

Trump and John Bolton just took action to cripple our ability to stop Russian hacking

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Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton — the bloodthirsty vulture who swooped in to replace H.R. McMaster — is determined to repeat, if not outright one-up, the extensive damage he did to the United States, its international reputation, and the rest of the world during his tenure in the Bush administration.


Given his bombastic rhetoric and hawkish worldview, one might expect Bolton to be at the forefront of safeguarding America in the digital war theater, or at the very least pretending to care about it, especially after the unprecedented campaign waged by the Russians to undermine the 2016 election and install Trump in the Oval Office. Political parties aside, surely Bolton would want to protect our cyber infrastructure from future attacks of a similar kind? Apparently, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

According to Politico, the Trump administration has done away with the top cyber policy advisor position. The “cyber coordinator” was a job created during the Obama years to prepare the United States security apparatus for the digital challenges of the coming century.

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Eric Geller of Politico explained the importance of the role:

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“The cyber coordinator led a team of directors and senior directors who worked with agencies to develop a unified strategy for issues like election security and digital deterrence. The coordinator also represented the administration in meetings with foreign partners and at conferences and other public events.”

John Bolton had been pushing to remove the position and while the White House is attempting to paint the termination as an effort to “streamline” the government’s cybersecurity capabilities, one can’t help but see it in the disturbing context of Trump’s repeated refusal to condemn Russian cyber interference or take any kind of substantive action to prevent it from happening again in anticipation of the 2018 midterms.

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The cyber coordinator role was held by Rob Joyce, a former NSA employee who left the position last week and will now return to the NSA. The Hill reports that during his time at the NSA, Joyce headed the Tailored Access Operations Unit, a high-level hacking group for the U.S. government. Clearly, he was someone qualified to help Trump and his infamously incompetent administration with cyber warfare policy.

After Joyce left the White House last week, many urged Trump to simply appoint a new coordinator rather than abolish the position altogether. He ignored the concerns, including those of  Senator Mark Warner (VA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Warner tweeted about the strange decision:

Whether this decision is part of the usual Republican fetishization of removing federal jobs and cutting government bureaucracy or an overt attempt to weaken our cybersecurity to help the Russians is unclear, but what is clear is that it makes our nation less safe. Trump and his cronies are leaving us wide open to bad actors from foreign nations, and they must be removed from office before more damage can be done.

Robert Haffey

Robert Haffey is a political writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.

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