President Barack Obama has said the US will retaliate against Russia for meddling in this year’s elections as his successor-elect Donald Trump continued to both question and mock reports of the hackings that were allegedly meant to help him win.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections . . we need to take action,” Obama said in an interview to NPR, a radio station, on Thursday. “And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”
In response to the threat, Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said, “It is necessary to either stop talking about it, or finally produce some evidence. Otherwise, it all begins to look quite unseemly.”
Obama gave no timelines, but he has only four weeks left in office, unless he wants to leave it to Trump to follow up on his threat, which looks unlikely as the president-elect has been dismissive about the hackings, and called them “ridiculous”.
He has argued, in tweets and public remarks and leaked private conversations, that, one, these allegations have surfaced only because he won, and two, this is an attempt to delegitimise his election, a line that his aides have also pushed in recent days.
“Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that the head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?” Trump wrote in a tweet on Friday morning, referring to a hacked email released by WikiLeaks.
On Thursday, Trump had falsely claimed, also on Twitter, that the White House did nothing earlier about the hacking, when it actually had. The intelligence community had issued a statement in October accusing Russia of engineering the hackings. Also, according to White House officials, Obama personally warned President Vladimir Putin of consequences in a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in China in September.
The US intelligence community had then blamed Russia for hacking the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, and passing on the stolen data — emails and documents — to WikiLeaks, which released them in tranches.
It was believed then the hackings were meant to discredit the US election process. But after the election, the CIA told lawmakers it had evidence to conclude the hackings were intended to undermine Clinton and help Trump win the presidency.
Among other things, the hackers had been curiously selective. Computer networks of both the Democratic and Republican parties were hacked but only data stolen from the Democrats was released. They held on to the other lot.
The US intelligence is now accusing Putin of personal involvement in the hacking as “vendetta” against Clinton, who as secretary of state had been extremely critical of his party’s victory in the 2011 parliamentary elections.