Obama needs no ‘additional evidence’ of hacking to substantiate anti-Russia sanctions – White House
President Obama did not need any "additional evidence" that Moscow somehow interfered with the US elections prompting him to impose additional sanctions and expel a group of Russian diplomats, the White House has said.
Last month, the outgoing president asked US intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of the alleged “Russian hacking” and demanded to see the report before he leaves office on 20 January. Obama received a classified briefing about the alleged Russian involvement in the election on Thursday morning, the White House said.
“The White House does have the report and President Obama is being briefed on it by a range of senior officials that are members of his national security team,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
However, even before receiving the intelligence assessment, the spokesman revealed, Obama already decided to take punitive action against Moscow by expelling a group of Russian diplomats last month.
"There was no need to wait for additional evidence to substantiate the kind of response that was put forward," Earnest said.
"[T]he unprecedented nature of the statement that was issued by the intelligence community a month before the election… should be a clear indication to everybody of the depth of conviction, the high confidence that the intelligence community had in the conclusions that they publicized back in October," Earnest added according to Sputnik.
On 29 December, president Obama decided to expel 35 diplomats and their families describing the Russian civil servants as “intelligence operatives.” In imposing additional sanctions Washington also announced the closure of two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” the departing president said at the time, threatening that the US still has a number of tools in its arsenal that it can use “at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized.”
Earnest said Thursday that he “would not expect a formal response” from Obama immediately. As Earnest made the revelation, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress that an unclassified version of the intelligence report will be released “early next week.”
“It’s important for the American people to understand that it’s our democracy that has been interfered with,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that authorities will make “as much of it [text] public as they possibly can.”
President elect Donald Trump, who has criticized Obama’s handling of the alleged hacking scandal, is scheduled to receive his own briefing on the report Friday. Members of Congress will get a classified briefing on Monday before the report is released.
The Obama administration and the losing Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, have accused Moscow of being behind the alleged cyberattacks that targeted Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, during their ill-fated campaign.
They insisted that the whistleblower website WikiLeaks obtained the damaging emails, which supposedly damaged Clinton’s chances to win, not from an insider or a casual hacker but directly from Russian intelligence agencies.
The claims have consistently been denied by both WikiLeaks and Moscow, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling them “nonsense” in an interview with RT. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange emphasized that with passwords like “p@ssw0rd,” even a “14-year-old kid could have hacked Podesta,” and even Trump blasted the Democrats for its “carelessness” around its tech security.