(CNN) President Donald Trump must support the efforts of the national security apparatus to combat Russian cyberattacks with strong public rhetoric, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services committee said Thursday.
Trump's national security and intelligence officials announced at a White House news briefing Thursday that the Trump administration is taking unified steps to combat election interference and other cyberattacks, particularly from Russia.
Following the briefing, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, said Trump must back up these actions by taking a strong public position against Russia.
"Trump needs to actually follow up with actual words and rhetoric," Gallego told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."
Gallego said he hopes Trump is privately working to push back against Russian cyberattacks by authorizing his national security team to combat them but "he needs to match his actions publicly too" because "the Russians ... only understand power, and power projected by the head of government."
Gallego added that Trump must not "undermine" Congress when it attempts to pass sanctions against Russia.
He claimed that Trump's repeated contradictory statements about Russian election attacks weaken the US's response to them.
"The best way to counter any type of threat is to have a deterrent," he said. "The problem we have right now is that the President is not part of the deterrent package."
Gallego accused Trump of compromising national security by not consistently standing behind his national security and intelligence officials publicly.
"You have our apparatus when it comes to the National Security Council and everybody else that are pushing hard against Russia and Russian interference, but the President comes out all the time, basically undermines that," he said, "and that is where we're going to find ourselves in trouble."
Gallego said a lack of strong opposition from Trump to Russian cyberattacks could encourage Russia to continue them.
"Russia is going to take in calculations and start figuring out that, 'You know what, we can probably still get away with it,' because they're going to have President Trump at least there for two more years to make sure that the blowback is not as harsh," Gallego said.