Trump inherited 'cyber-crisis' from Obama, VP Pence says at cybersecurity summit

Vice President Mike Pence contended Tuesday that President Trump’s administration inherited a “cyber-crisis” when he took office, laying the blame for Russian meddling on the Obama administration.

“[S]adly, previous administrations have let the American people down when it came to cyber defense,” Pence said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Summit in New York City. “At the outset of this administration, it became clear from early on: In a very real sense, we inherited a cyber-crisis.”

“Sadly, previous administrations have let the American people down when it came to cyber defense. At the outset of this administration, it became clear from early on: In a very real sense, we inherited a cyber-crisis.”

– Vice President Mike Pence

Pence suggested the Obama administration was to blame for major security breaches in recent years, such as the Equifax hack — which affected the data of half the U.S. population — and the hack at the federal Office of Personnel Management, which affected about 18 million people, CNet.com reported.

Pence vowed the White House would take proactive measures to overhaul the country’s cyber-security systems, to prevent another attack. 

The vice president also derided Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and vowed the Trump administration would do more to prevent future cyber-attacks.

Pence’s denouncement of Russia was unprecedented, given President Trump’s ambiguous stance on election meddling, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“While other nations certainly possess the capability, the fact is Russia meddled in our 2016 elections,” Pence said, “That is the unambiguous judgment of our intelligence community, and, as the president said, we accept the intelligence community’s conclusion.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen address the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Cybersecurity Summit, Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen addresses the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Cybersecurity Summit, July 31, 2018.  (Associated Press)

Trump was widely criticized for appearing to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assurance that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election – just days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials. But following widespread backlash, Trump reversed his position.

At the same New York event, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced several initiatives to combat future threats, Politico reported, including an election security task force, a supply chain task force and a National Risk Management center.

The risk management center will reportedly work to safeguard the nation’s banks, energy companies, and other major industries, the Journal reported.

“[O]ur digital lives are now in danger every single day,” Nielsen said, adding that the next 9/11 attack would likely “reach us online” rather “than on an airplane.”  

“Our digital lives are now in danger every single day.”

– Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. secretary of homeland security

Meanwhile, a group of demonstrators wearing red “Handmaid’s Tale” robes marched outside the summit to protest the Trump administration’s now-rescinded “zero tolerance” policy, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ religious liberty task force.

A group called Refuse Fascism, which organized the protest, maintains that the Trump administration’s “religious liberty” policies are discriminatory towards LGBT people and women, AM New York reported.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

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