Biden assails Trump over handling of Russia hack

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The US government has not made a formal assessment of who was behind the attack, but both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr have said all signs point to Russia. But Trump, who has long sidestepped blaming Moscow for its provocations, has not followed suit and has instead suggested — without evidence — that China may have carried out the hack.

The breach of the Treasury Department began in July, but experts believe the overall hacking operation began months earlier when malicious code was slipped into updates to popular software that monitors computer networks of businesses and governments.

“The truth is, the Trump administration failed to prioritize cybersecurity,” Biden said. “This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch, while he wasn’t watching.”

Given Trump’s reluctance to publicly blame Russia, it appears likely that any formal US retaliation for the hacking will fall to Biden. The president-elect said he would work with allies to set up international rules to hold nation states accountable for cyberattacks and vowed that his administration would make cybersecurity a top priority.

Biden spoke a day after Congress passed a $900 billion coronavirus aid bill that includes direct payments to many Americans and aid for struggling small businesses. He called the bill a “down payment” on a broader relief bill he plans to introduce when he takes office in January.

“Like all compromises, this is far from perfect,” Biden said. “Congress did their job this week, and I can and I must ask them to do it again next year.”

The president-elect also expressed empathy for families who have struggled this year through the pandemic and resulting economic uncertainty. He singled out in particular front-line workers, scientists, researchers, clinical trial participants, and those with deployed family members during the holiday season.

“Our hearts are always with you — keep the faith,” said Biden, even as he warned that the nation faces a “dark winter” as COVID-19 cases rise across the country. More than 320,000 people have died from the virus in the United States.

He urged Americans to continue to take precautions, particularly during…