WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has warned Russia that the US would retaliate overtly and covertly against it for its meddling in the recent presidential election through cyberattacks.
The outgoing US president said he was waiting for a final report he has ordered into a range of Russian hacking attacks that may have swayed last month’s tight election in which Republican candidate Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections. That we need to take action and we will,” Obama told the National Public Radio in an interview.
“At a time and a place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be,” he said according to excerpts of the interview.
He said he directly confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about a potential US response, and said his counterpart acknowledged his stance.
“Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it,” Obama said.
Obama and Putin conferred on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in China in September. Afterwards, Obama told reporters he raised cybersecurity with the Russian leader.
Obama has ordered US intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of the hacking and report back to him before he leaves office on Inauguration Day January 20.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest yesterday told reporters during the daily briefing that “Mr Trump obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyber activity that was helping him, (and) hurting (Democrat Hillary) Clinton …
These are all facts that are not in dispute.”
Earnest pointed out that Trump had encouraged Moscow during a news conference to find missing emails from Clinton’s private server. Trump has said he was joking.
“I don’t think anybody at the White House thinks it’s funny that an adversary of the United States engaged in malicious cyber activity to destabilize our democracy,” Earnest said. “That’s not a joke.”
Earnest, without mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin by name, also said “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” repeating the words from an October US intelligence assessment.
Russia stands accused by the US of hacking the emails of the Democratic Party and a key Hillary Clinton aide, which the Kremlin strongly denies.
Republican president-elect Donald Trump has also dismissed the claim as “ridiculous” and politically motivated. -PTI