Obama vows action against Russia over alleged poll meddling

16 Dec 2016


President Barak ObamaPresident Barak Obama said on Thursday that the United States would retaliate for Russia's efforts to influence the presidential election, asserting that ''we need to take action'' and ''we will''.

The comments, in an interview with NPR, indicate that Obama, in his remaining weeks in office, will pursue either economic sanctions against Russia or perhaps some kind of response in cyberspace, according to The New York Times.

Obama spoke as President-elect Donald J Trump on Thursday again refused to accept Moscow's culpability, asking on Twitter why the administration had waited ''so long to act'' if Russia ''or some other entity'' had carried out cyber attacks.

The president discussed the potential for American retaliation with Steve Inskeep of NPR for an interview aired this morning. ''I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our election,'' Obama said, ''we need to take action. And we will - at the time and place of our choosing.''

The White House strongly suggested before the election that. Obama would make use of sanctions authority for cyber attacks that he had given to himself by executive order. But he did not do so, in part out of concern that action before the election could lead to an escalated conflict.

If Obama invokes sanctions on Russian individuals or organisations, Trump could reverse them. But that would be politically difficult, as it would reinforce his critics' argument that he is blind to Russian behaviour.

On Thursday, pressure grew on Trump in Congress to acknowledge intelligence agencies' conclusions that Russia was behind the hacking. But aides said that was all but impossible before the Electoral College convenes on Monday to formalise his victory.

Trump has said privately in recent days that he believes there are people in the CIA who are out to get him and are working to delegitimise his presidency, according to people briefed on the conversations who described them on the condition of anonymity, says NYT.

The president-elect's suspicions have been stoked by the efforts of a group of Democratic electors, as well as one Republican, who called this week for an intelligence briefing on the Russian hacking, raising the prospect that votes in the Electoral College might be changed.

In his Twitter posting on Thursday, Trump suggested that the government's conclusions on Russian hacking were a case of sour grapes by Obama. The president-elect stated that Obama had waited until after the election to raise the issue, which according to NYT is false.

''Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?'' Trump asked, although the director of national intelligence, James R Clapper Jr, formally blamed Russia on 7 October for cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other organisations (See: US accuses Russia of interfering in its elections through campaign hacking). In September, meeting privately in China with President Vladimir V Putin of Russia, Obama not only complained, the White House says, but also warned him of consequences if the Russian activity did not stop.

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