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Sen. Cruz: Biden Administration Weak on Response to Cyber-Attacks by Russia and China

‘That’s a question that the administration should answer - showing weakness to China and weakness to Russia only invites more aggression and more cyber-attacks attacking our nation’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned the U.S. Department of Justice Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, Richard Downing, on the Biden administration's weak response to numerous cyber-attacks by China and Russia. Excerpts of his line of questioning are below.

WATCH: Sen. Cruz: America's Critical Infrastructure Should Be off-Limits to Russian Hacking

In his line of questioning, Sen. Cruz said:

"Ransomware attacks have become more and more common, and more and more dangerous. In May of this year, hackers based in Russia shut down Colonial Pipeline, a pipeline that carries gasoline to the southeastern United States. And what did the Biden administration do? Next to nothing. The administration sat around as gas lines formed up and down the Eastern Seaboard. And the White House Deputy National Security Adviser tried to absolve-the Biden administration tried to absolve the president from any responsibility whatsoever saying, ‘Colonial is a private company, and we'll defer information regarding their decision on paying a ransom to them.' While later, after Colonial paid a $4.4 million ransom, President Biden decided to reward Russia for allowing this hack. He greenlit the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that will put billions of dollars in the pockets of Vladimir Putin. Then he sat down with Putin and told him that only certain parts of America's critical infrastructure should be off-limits, he specified 16 parts that were off-limits. Call me crazy-I think all of our critical infrastructure should be off-limits to Russian hacking. When the president enumerates 16 that matter, that is an invitation to hack every other part of our infrastructure. Mr. Downing, does paying ransom encourage more ransomware attacks?"

Mr. Downing responded:

"I think it's fair to say that when criminals profit, they draw more criminals into that space, and so the paying of ransoms is certainly one thing that fuels the increase of ransomware attacks that we've seen."

Sen. Cruz continued:

"Is telling Putin that only certain parts of our infrastructure [are] off-limits, does that have the potential to encourage more attacks like the Colonial Pipeline attack?"

Mr. Downing responded:

"I would have to say that the president's communications with Putin are outside of my purview. However, I can assure you that we are continuing to press for results. And we are not waiting around from a law enforcement perspective to see what would happen there. We are pursuing the cases and the investigations and the activities that we would in order to do the very best that we can to drive deterrence and to arrest and disrupt these operations."

Sen. Cruz continued later, in part:

"The idea that malevolent actors would go after infrastructure like a pipeline-that is a threat we've been aware of for some time. China has repeatedly used ransomware and cyber-attacks to harm America. Not only has it attacked pipelines in an effort to cause physical damage, but just this year, hackers affiliated with the Chinese government attacked tens of thousands of computers across tens of thousands of organizations, including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities, and local governments. Once again, unfortunately, the Biden administration responded to extreme threats with extreme weakness. The Biden administration has not imposed any sanctions on China. Instead, the administration announced that it is dropping criminal cases against five Chinese scientists who, with the help of consular officials, hid their affiliations with China's military in order to infiltrate our nation. Mr. Downing, why is this administration refusing to prosecute Chinese scientists who lied about their ties to the Chinese military in order to come to this country and gain access to information?"

Mr. Downing responded:

"Senator, thank you for the question. I would have to say that from my position in the criminal division, I am not responsible for those decisions. However, it is something that I'd be happy to take back and get you an answer."

Sen. Cruz asked:

"And let me ask anyone on the panel. Do you have an answer as to why the administration has not sanctioned China for repeated cyber-attacks over and over and over again against the United States?"

After no response from the panel of witnesses, Sen. Cruz concluded:

"Well, I think that's a question that the administration should answer. Showing weakness to China and weakness to Russia only invites more aggression and more cyber-attacks attacking our nation."