Malaysiakini News

Obama says US will 'take action' on Russian hacking

Anne K Walters & Becky Bowman, dpa  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The United States will take action to respond to evidence of Russian hacking in the presidential election, President Barack Obama said in an interview that will air today.

"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 the interview with broadcaster NPR.

"And we will - at a time and place of our own choosing."

US intelligence officials said yesterday they had a "high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in directing how material acquired by hackers was leaked, NBC News reported, citing unnamed officials with access to the information.

Russian hackers accessed the email of the Democratic National Committee and top party officials, including Hillary Clinton's campaign chairperson, John Podesta. The emails were published by WikiLeaks in the months leading up to the November elections.

The president, who requested an intelligence review of the hacking to be delivered before he leaves office, took care, according to NPR, not to endorse the CIA's assessment that Russia's goal was to put US president-elect Donald Trump in office.

Obama said that while the hacking benefited Trump, he was not suggesting that Trump's campaign played a role in it, NPR reported.

The president did not blame the leaked information for Clinton's election loss, however he said the hacking did "create more problems" for her campaign than it did for Trump's.

"Elections can always turn out differently," Obama said.

"You never know which factors are going to make a difference. But I have no doubt that it had some impact, just based on the coverage."

Yesterday, Trump questioned why the White House did not act more quickly on evidence of the hacking, as media reported that Putin was personally involved in the operation.

"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?" Trump asked on Twitter.

The Kremlin yesterday slammed the reports alleging Putin was personally involved. Such reports were "ludicrous nonsense," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by Russian state news agency Tass.

US intelligence officials in October pinned the hacking on the Russian government and said the move was intended to interfere with the US election. Media reports this month said the CIA had concluded the Russians intended to help Trump win the election.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest would not directly confirm that US intelligence had concluded Putin was involved, but pointed to the October statement's reference to involvement of "Russia's senior-most officials".

He noted the statement was "not particularly subtle" and that it was "pretty obvious" they were referring to the top government official.

Trump's team dismissed discussion of the issue as an effort to delegitimise his win, but Earnest said it would be wise for them to support a full, nonpartisan investigation.

Trump clearly knew during the campaign that Russia was involved in hacking that was benefiting him and hurting opponent Hillary Clinton, Earnest said, pointing to widespread discussion of the matter and Trump's remarks urging the hackers to find missing emails from Clinton's private server.

The White House has defended its decision not to take more forceful action as it sought to avoid the appearance of using the intelligence for its own political purposes.

- dpa

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