Obama orders intelligence review of Russia’s alleged hacker activity
Obama orders intelligence review of Russia’s alleged hacker activity
Well, Obama is finally on board with Russia being a threat to the U.S.
Everyone remembers how he mocked Mitt Romney during their presidential debate, and how he did nothing when Russia annexed Crimea, and how he has basically ceded authority to Russia in Syria? But hackers into the DNC database? Now Russia has crossed the line.
Two years later, Obama was asked if Romney was right. He said a lot of words (that’s why everybody thinks he’s so smart) but he never answered the questioned.
Yesterday Obama ordered a full intelligence review of Russian hacker activity.
On Friday, the White House said President Obama had ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign, as pressure from Congress has grown for greater public understanding of exactly what Moscow did to influence the electoral process.
“We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned,” Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Obama wants the report before he leaves office Jan. 20, Monaco said.
The CIA says Russian connected hackers are responsible for the DNC Wikileaks, and have alluded to interference in voter registration and the ballot box, though evidence for that is vague.
In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.
The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.
“I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Some lawmakers are still skeptical too.
Some key Republican lawmakers have continued to question the quality of evidence supporting Russian involvement.
“I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence — even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”
Tucker Carlson disputes the source of the hacking on his show with Democratic Congressmen from California, Adam Schiff. Schiff would not say with certainty that Russia hacked the DNC, only that Russia was trying to influence the election. Then he told Carlson that because he disputed the source of the hack, Carlson was “carrying water for the Kremlin!”
Fellow Democrats are angry that Obama didn’t act sooner, before the election, but the White House did not want to look like it was using intelligence for partisan purposes.
The reluctance of the Obama White House to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions before Election Day upset Democrats on the Hill as well as members of the Clinton campaign.
Within the administration, top officials from different agencies sparred over whether and how to respond. White House officials were concerned that covert retaliatory measures might risk an escalation in which Russia, with sophisticated cyber-capabilities, might have less to lose than the United States, with its vast and vulnerable digital infrastructure.
The White House’s reluctance to take that risk left Washington weighing more-limited measures, including the “naming and shaming” approach of publicly blaming Moscow.
By mid-September, White House officials had decided it was time to take that step, but they worried that doing so unilaterally and without bipartisan congressional backing just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes.
According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.
Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.
Julian Assange of Wikileaks has denied that the Russian government is the source for the Wikileaks material. That doesn’t rule out that a third party directed by Russia might be the culprit. But Obama’s interest in Russia only now is surely just a parting shot. Obama has run away from every chance at exerting leadership in geopolitical affairs and that has resulted in an embarrassing position for Obama. This is the last thing he can do to try to smack Putin. It also has the effect of mucking up the relationship for the new president.
But at least one lawmaker blames the White House and not Congress for not taking any action.
“The lack of an administration response on the Russian hacking cannot be attributed to Congress,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was at the September meeting. “The administration has all the tools it needs to respond. They have the ability to impose sanctions. They have the ability to take clandestine means. The administration has decided not to utilize them in a way that would deter the Russians, and I think that’s a problem.”
In October, 2016, Putin was asked about whether Russia is behind the Wikileaks documents or whether Russia is trying to influence the election. Putin says he has come to expect talk like this from the United States. He thinks Clinton will be more aggressive toward Russia and he thinks Trump will be more cooperative, but he doesn’t say if he supports either candidate.
For his part, President-Elect Trump has not taken the Russian hacker threat too seriously, despite the reported intelligence. He will, however, have Obama’s report on his desk when he gets to Washington next month. Regardless of what it says, being the person Trump supposedly is, it is unlikely that he will allow Russia to gain the upper hand, even if they look like they are on friendly terms. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Putin riding the golden elevators at Trump Tower soon.