The U.S. will take action against Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and interfering in the U.S. election, President Obama told NPR Friday.
Obama gave no indication when that retaliation might occur—he has only five weeks remaining in office—or what form it might take, noting that “there are still a whole range of assessments taking place among the agencies."
He also shied away from endorsing the CIA's recent assessment that Russia was attempting to influence the election in favour of Donald Trump, who won the electoral vote over opponent Hillary Clinton, whose emails were leaked in a steady drip during the latter months of the campaign.
“When I receive a final report, you know, we'll be able to, I think, give us a comprehensive and best guess as to those motivations,” Obama said.
"But that does not in any way, I think, detract from the basic point that everyone during the election perceived accurately — that in fact what the Russian hack had done was create more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign."
The president said that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin covered cybersecurity when they met at the G-20 summit in China in September. Their conversation, Obama has said, was “candid, blunt, businesslike.”
Obama also drew a distinction between the kind of spying and intelligence-gathering every “big power” does and “the kind of malicious cyberattacks that steal trade secrets or engage in industrial espionage, something that we've seen the Chinese do. And there is a difference between that and activating intelligence in a way that's designed to influence elections."
While the Trump routinely has questioned allegations that Russian operatives were behind the hacks and dismissed the CIA's assessment, Clinton's Campaign Chairman John Podesta, whose email was hacked, took the FBI to task for not responding adequately to the Russian attack on DNC computers discovered in September 2015.
The bureau, Podesta wrote in a New York Times opinion piece Thursday that the bureau “failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials.” In contrast, the FBI poured tremendous resources into scrutinising Clinton's use of a private email serve while Secretary of State.
“Comparing the FBI's massive response to the overblown email scandal with the seemingly lackadaisical response to the very real Russian plot to subvert a national election shows that something is deeply broken at the FBI,” said Podesta.
Russia has denied any involvement in the hacks and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who released tens of thousands of Clinton's emails, has said he didn't receive the purloined emails from Russian operatives. But Thursday, Assange did tell Sean Hannity that some of the emails released by Guccifer 2.0, who security researchers and law enforcement authorities believe to be a front for Russian hackers, “look very much like they're from the Russians.”