The New York Times reports: President Obama said on Thursday that the United States would retaliate for Russia’s efforts to influence the presidential election, asserting that “we need to take action,” and “we will.”
The comments, in an interview with NPR, indicate that Mr. Obama, in his remaining weeks in office, will pursue either economic sanctions against Russia or perhaps some kind of response in cyberspace.
Mr. Obama spoke as President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday again refused to accept Moscow’s culpability, asking on Twitter why the administration had waited “so long to act” if Russia “or some other entity” had carried out cyberattacks.
The president discussed the potential for American retaliation with Steve Inskeep of NPR for an interview to air on Friday morning. “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our election,” Mr. Obama said, “we need to take action. And we will — at the time and place of our choosing.”
The White House strongly suggested before the election that Mr. Obama would make use of sanctions authority for cyberattacks that he had given to himself by executive order. But he did not, in part out of concern that action before the election could lead to an escalated conflict.
If Mr. Obama invokes sanctions on Russian individuals or organizations, Mr. Trump could reverse them. But that would be politically difficult, as his critics argue that he is blind to Russian behavior. [Continue reading…]
NBC News reports: [In this tweet] Trump was no longer disputing, as he has for months, that Russia was involved. And his top transition aide, Anthony Scaramucci, went even further Wednesday night in an interview with MSNBC’s Brian Williams.
“I don’t think anybody thinks that you’re wrong,” he said of the NBC News report. “Our position right now is that we’re waiting for more information. We reject the notion that people would cyber attack our institutions. We are very upset about it.”
Scaramucci went on to suggest that Trump needed time to digest the intelligence.
“I wonder whether the tweet the president-elect sent out today is the beginning of his pivot, the beginning of his acknowledgement of the intelligence that Russia has been hacking our institutions,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
In an exclusive report Wednesday, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News they now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign in October.
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump’s stated doubts about Russia’s involvement will subside after Monday’s Electoral College vote. He and his allies have been concerned that the reports of Russian hacking have been intended to peel away votes from him, although even Democrats have not gone so far as to say the election was illegitimate.
“Right now, certain elements of the media, certain elements of the intelligence community and certain politicians are really doing the work of the Russians — they’re creating this uncertainty over the election,” Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, told reporters on Thursday after meeting with Mr. Trump.
But many other Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, have publicly argued that the evidence leads straight to Russia. They have called for a full investigation, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged Mr. Obama on Thursday to complete an administration review quickly.
Mr. Trump’s Twitter post was his latest move to accuse the intelligence agencies he will soon control of acting with a political agenda and to dispute the well-documented conclusion that Moscow carried out a meticulously planned series of attacks and releases of information to interfere in the presidential race.
But as he repeated his doubts, Mr. Trump seized on emerging questions about the Obama administration’s response: Why did it take months after the breaches had been discovered for the administration to name Moscow publicly as the culprit? And why did Mr. Obama initially opt not to openly retaliate, through sanctions or other measures?
White House officials have said that the warning to Mr. Putin at the September summit meeting in China constituted the primary American response so far. When the administration decided to go public with its conclusion a month later, it did so in a statement from the director of national intelligence and the Homeland Security secretary, not in a prominent presidential appearance.
Officials said they were worried that any larger public response would have raised doubts about the election’s integrity, something Mr. Trump was already seeking to do during the campaign when he insisted the election was “rigged.” [Continue reading…]