Obama pledges to take action against Russia over hacking claims
U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to “take action” against Russia for alleged cyberattacks intended to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections that we need to take action, and we will – at a time and place of our own choosing,” Obama said in an interview with NPR that aired Friday.
“Some of it may be explicit and publicized. Some of it may not be,” he said, according to excerpts of the interview released Thursday. “But [Russian President] Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it.”
Obama said he was waiting for a final intelligence report on the issue before deciding on a response.
The U.S. government formally accused Russia in October of being behind the politically damaging hacks of thousands of emails from Democratic Party-linked accounts, which were then published on WikiLeaks and other sites. The statement said the U.S. intelligence community was confident that Russia was responsible, and that the hacks were intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.
Reports emerged Thursday that several U.S. officials believe Putin personally supervised the hacking operation. Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the election, calling the claims “laughable nonsense.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists: “At this point they need to either stop talking about this or finally present some sort of proof.”
Friction is building between White House and Trump
The issue has raised tensions between the White House and President-elect Donald Trump, who’s been angered at the inference that outside factors contributed to his win.
Trump has rejected as “ridiculous” a CIA report that found Russian hackers intervened to sway the election in his favor, and tweeted Thursday: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”
If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016
He tweeted again Friday: “Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?”
Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2016
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stepped up his criticism of Trump over the issue Thursday, saying it would have been obvious to Trump that cyberactivity was taking place, and that it was hurting his opponent’s campaign.
“It’s just a fact – you all have it on tape – that the Republican nominee for president was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent because he believed that would help his campaign,” Earnest said, referring to controversial comments Trump made in July at a press conference in Florida. Said Trump: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
While Obama said in his comments to NPR that the hack had obviously created “more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign,” he stopped short of blaming it for the Democratic candidate’s loss.
“Elections can always turn out differently. You never know which factors are going to make a difference,” he said. “But I have no doubt that it had some impact, just based on the coverage.”
President Obama will hold a press conference at the White House Friday at 2:15 p.m. E.T.
Cover: Silas Stein/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images