Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, cut short a European trip to return to Washington to coordinate the government response to the suspected Russian cyber attack on multiple federal agencies, according to an administration official.
O’Brien flew back to Washington on Tuesday from Paris, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, to address the attack, which targeted the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security and Defense.
The official said the change in plans is a reflection of how seriously they view the situation. O’Brien has had a heavy travel schedule as national security adviser and was criticized for traveling to a number of swing states right before the election. He has told friends that he wants to run for president in 2024.
O’Brien will hold National Security Council meetings with his cybersecurity team in the coming days, as well as a likely NSC principals committee meeting in the next few days. The NSC had an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the attack.
The NSC announced on Tuesday that it had established a Cyber Unified Coordination Group to “ensure continued unity of effort” as the government responds to what it calls “a significant cyber incident.”
O’Brien, who had traveled to Europe to meet with foreign government officials on national security issues, attracted scrutiny for bringing his wife on the trip during a surge in Covid cases.
O’Brien was originally scheduled to be in Europe until Saturday, but he decided to return early given the scale of the breach, according to the official. He’s skipping meetings with U.K. government officials in London as well as a swing through Rome.
He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday in Israel and also spoke in-person at the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development convention, even though the event was mostly virtual.
Trump, who has been loath to criticize Russia during his presidency, has not weighed in to criticize the cyberattack yet. The Russian government denies responsibility.
Read more: politico.com