Gardner renews calls to designate Russia state sponsor of terror after report on attacks in Cuba

DENVER – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., on Tuesday renewed his calls for Russia to be designated a state sponsor of terror on the heels of a news report that showed U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia may be responsible for a mysterious series of attacks on U.S. diplomats and employees in Cuba and China.

The report from NBC News says that five people with knowledge of the investigation into how more than two dozen government workers suffered brain injuries and other cognitive issues while working in Havana, and how a similar fate befell a worker in China, have said that the intelligence agencies think Russia is behind the attacks.

The report says that the agencies have intercepted communications that point to Russia, but also says that there is not currently enough evidence for the U.S. to formally blame Russia for the attacks, which started in late 2016 and have continued into this year. The agencies are also trying to determine what type of weapons were used in the attacks and have pointed to microwave devices, among other possibilities.

“If the NBC News reports are true, this is a direct attack by Russia against the United States,” Gardner said Tuesday in a statement.

Gardner in April introduced a bill that would designate Russia as a state sponsor of terror. The bill’s introduction came after a Russian nerve agent was found to be responsible for the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence agent and his daughter in England.

He doubled down on his ask in early August, introducing a bipartisan package of new sanctions against Russia, which included the state sponsor of terror designation, along with several other senators from both parties. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., introduced a companion bill to Gardner’s in late July.

Gardner’s bill had three cosponsors as of Tuesday and has received no new sponsors since July.

“Vladimir Putin cannot continue to operate with impunity and it is time we impose tough and lasting consequences for Russia’s actions that undermine civilized norms and international law, including the invasion of Ukraine, the support for the murderous Assad regime in Syria, and assassinations on foreign soil,” Gardner said in a statement Tuesday. “Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism, and it is time we treat them that way.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that threats against the U.S. election systems are “real and evolving,” though she said that DHS hasn’t seen breaching attempts on the same scale as it did when the intelligence community says Russia meddled to try and influence the 2016 election.

President Trump, meanwhile, on Tuesday morning quoted a Fox News segment from Monday night: “We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero,” he tweeted, in part.

Regarding the suspected attacks in Cuba and China, a U.S. official told NBC News there was “no reason to believe this was anything but an intentional act.”

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