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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday blamed President Joe Biden for recent ransomware attacks originating in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union against businesses and organizations around the world, accusing the Biden administration of being "soft on Russia."

McCarthy's comment, in a tweet that was then deleted but was captured by ProPublica's Politwoops site, comes after years of accepting former President Donald Trump's cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The Biden admin has been soft on Russia since Day 1," McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted. "The President never should have signaled to Putin that hacking against America is acceptable under ANY circumstance." He deleted the tweet 20 minutes later, without explanation.

Following the June 17 summit meeting between Biden and Putin, McCarthy said in a statement, "President Biden should have used today's summit to stand up for our national interests and send a message to the world that the United States will hold Russia accountable for its long list of transgressions. Unfortunately, President Biden gave Vladimir Putin a pass."

By contrast, McCarthy never publicly criticized Trump's support and open admiration for Putin. While the Washington Post reported in 2017 that the GOP leader had told colleagues privately the previous year, "There's two people I think Putin pays: [then-Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump," he later claimed, "It's a bad attempt at a joke; that's all there is to it. No one believes it to be true from any stretch of fact."

In response to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian, McCarthy dismissed the allegations with the repeated phrase "nothing there."

Two other members of his caucus also defended Trump's handling of Putin but are now criticizing Biden's.

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona cheered Trump's 2018 summit with Putin as "a good first step toward normal, diplomatic relations" in a USA Today op-ed.

"Joe Biden talks a tough game on Russia only to sit back as they hurl cyber-attacks at us," he tweeted on Tuesday. "Putin is eating our lunch."

Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin excused Trump's public defense of Putin at the 2018 summit, instead scolding journalists for being "extremely unprofessional" by asking Trump if he believed Putin's denials of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. "The intent of it wasn't fact-finding, it was a 'gotcha' question — and not one that should ever have been asked in that setting," Mullin tweeted.

On Wednesday, he tweeted that a ransomware attack against the software company Kaseya was "a direct result of President Biden failing to hold Russia accountable."

This is not the first time pro-Trump lawmakers have tried to frame Biden as weak on Russia.

In May, after Biden approved a request from the German government to waive sanctions against a business building an oil pipeline between Russia and Germany, House Republicans suggested he must be "a Russian asset" or that Putin must "have" something on him.

The recent Republican criticisms come after a growing number of cyberattacks have been launched, seemingly by Russians hackers, against businesses across the globe. A similar attack on an oil and gas pipeline in May slowed fossil fuel deliveries along the East Coast for several days.

In June, Biden expressly told Putin to stop the hacking.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned, "If the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own."

Biden's public criticism of the Russian regime has been a sharp shift from his predecessor's approach.

Trump repeatedly said that getting along with Russia would be a "good" thing.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump openly sought help from Putin with opposition research against Hillary Clinton. "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," he said at a July press conference.

Weeks earlier, high-ranking Trump campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., had met with Russia officials who offered dirt on Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

After Russia's efforts to help Trump win came to light, he repeatedly defended Putin, falsely saying that Putin did not meddle on his behalf and dismissing the unanimous findings of his own intelligence agencies.

In a February 2017 Fox News appearance, Trump was asked why he respected a known "killer" like Putin. Trump responded, "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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