President Obama said the United States will retaliate against Russia over its malicious cyber-activity during this year's election, in an interview that aired Friday on NPR.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections . . . we need to take action,” the president said. “And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman responded by suggesting that the president and his aides were casting aspersions on Russia without offering any proof.
In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the U.S. government should “either stop talking about it or finally produce some evidence, otherwise it all begins to look unseemly.”
In the interview with “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep the president did not comment on last week's Washington Post report, later confirmed by other outlets, that the CIA has concluded with high confidence that Russia intervened in the election specifically to help Donald Trump win the White House. Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies publicly announced in October that they had concluded the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta was undertaken by hackers working for Russia.
Obama said that “there are still a whole range of assessments taking place among the agencies” and that he is waiting for the report on cyberattacks he has ordered to be delivered by Jan. 20.
“And so 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.”
“There's no doubt that it contributed to an atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time were Hillary's emails, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC,” he added.
Hillary Clinton told donors Thursday night that she believes the "unprecedented" combination of FBI Director James B. Comey notifying Congress he was still looking into her private email server and the "attack against our country" that Russia waged through the hacking of the DNC and Podesta's email tipped the election in Trump's favor, according to an audiotape of the remarks obtained by The New York Times. Putin, she explained, had "a personal beef" against her stemming from when as Secretary of State in 2011 she called Russian parliamentary elections "neither free nor fair."
Putin responded by suggesting that Clinton had galvanized thousands of protesters. “She set the tone for some of our public figures inside the country, sent a signal to them," he said. "They heard this signal and launched active work with the U.S. State Department’s support."
Three years later, after stepping down as Secretary of State, Clinton said that Russia was behaving in Eastern Europe like Hitler in the 1930s.
“You know, it’s best not to argue with women, it’s better not to get into a dispute with them," Putin told a group of French reporters at the time. "But Mrs. Clinton has not exactly distinguished herself with grace of expression…. When people cross a certain line of decency, that doesn’t speak of their strength, that speaks of their weakness. But for a woman, weakness is not the worst quality. “
In an interview Friday Boris Chernyshev, a Russian member of parliament from far-right LDPR party, said politicians in Moscow were "unanimously" unconcerned about the allegations that Russia had interfered with the election because they considered them untrue.
"She's simply trying to justify why she lost the election , blaming some Russian hackers for her own mistakes, and for why she is headed for the political graveyard," Chernyshev said of Clinton, when reached by telephone Friday evening.
The president said he had raised the issue of Russia's cyberattacks during a lengthy meeting with Putin in September on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in China. Russian officials have previously denied any hacking activity aimed at influencing this year's presidential race. Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the Russian president gave Obama a "very clear answer" during their talk at the G-20.
Andrew Roth contributed to this report.