USA Politics First Look

'We need to take action' on Russian election hack, Obama says

President Obama said the US will retaliate 'at a time and place of our choosing' to hacking that interfered with the US presidential election. 

President Obama (l.) shakes hands with Russian President President Vladimir Putin before a bilateral meeting on Sept. 28, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Mr. Obama has ordered intelligence officials to conduct a broad review on the election-season hacking that rattled the presidential campaign and raised new concerns about foreign meddling in US elections, a White House official said Friday.
Andrew Harnik/AP/File
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The controversy surrounding Russia’s role in hacking the US presidential election has taken yet another turn.

"When any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections ... we need to take action," President Obama said an interview with NPR on Thursday. And the US will respond, he added, "at a time and place of our own choosing."

The president’s statements Thursday come after the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said they have “high confidence” that Russia was involved in the election, and two US intelligence agents told NBC that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved. President-elect Donald Trump has also been criticized for his involvement, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying the Trump campaign's behavior "might be an indication that he was obviously aware" of the hacking.

When the president-elect logged on to Twitter Friday morning, he seemed to praise Russia’s meddling:

Trump’s tweet refers to an email hacked from the Democratic National Committee and sent to WikiLeaks in which Democratic strategist Donna Brazile gives the Clinton camp a heads up on a debate question before the Democratic debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, in Flint, Michigan. 

“One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash,” Ms. Brazile titled her email. Ms. Brazile also wrote to John Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman: “Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint.” 

Trump has written off any allegations of his involvement in Russian election hacking. In fact, Trump denies that Russia had any involvement in the election whatsoever. 

His presidential campaign manager Kellyanne Conway criticized Mr. Earnest’s allegations of Trump’s involvement on Thursday, calling it “just remarkable,” and “breathtaking.” 

“[H]e essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of this, maybe even fanned the flames,” said Ms. Conway. “It’s incredibly irresponsible and I wonder if his boss, President Obama, agrees.”

However regardless of Trump’s direct involvement, President Obama also explained how he views the Republican party’s present inaction against electoral hacking as hypocritical.

“The irony of all this, of course, is that for most of my presidency, there’s been a pretty sizeable wing of the Republican Party that has consistently criticized me for not being tough enough on Russia,” he said. “Some of those folks during the campaign endorsed Donald Trump, despite the fact that a central tenet of his foreign policy was we shouldn’t be so tough on Russia. And that kind of inconsistency I think makes it appear, at least, that their particular position on Russia on any given day depends on what’s politically expedient.”

But instead of finger-pointing, the issue of cybersecurity between the US and Russia can also hold great promise, the Monitor Editorial Board wrote Thursday.

"By 1964, the United States and Soviet Union started discussions that led to the first agreement to place restraints on nuclear and missile systems. More pacts followed as well as one for peaceful use of nuclear power. Might Russia and the US be at a similar point in setting international norms to prevent cyberwarfare – and the promotion of cyberstability? The groundwork has been laid for such agreements."