Obama Says US Needs to Respond to Russian Cyberattacks -- 'And We Will'
President Obama said Thursday that the U.S. needs to "take action" in response to cyberattacks on Democratic officials during the recent presidential campaign, hours after his administration insisted -- without offering proof -- that President-elect Donald Trump "obviously knew" of the breaches, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally authorized them.
"I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections ... we need to take action," Obama said in an interview scheduled to air Friday on National Public Radio. "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."
Earlier Thursday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during the daily White House 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 Putin by name, also said "only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities," repeating the words from an October U.S. intelligence assessment.
Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, connected the dots further, saying it was Putin who was responsible for the Russian government's actions.
"I don't think things happen in the Russian government of this consequence without Vladimir Putin knowing about it," Rhodes said on MSNBC.
Trump fired back Thursday evening, calling Earnest "foolish" during a "Thank You" rally in Hershey, Pa.
"I don't know if he's talking to President Obama," Trump said of Earnest, without addressing the hacking controversy directly. "You know, having the right press secretary's so important. Because he is so bad, the way he delivers a message ... The president is very positive, but he's not positive. And I mean, maybe he's getting his orders from somebody else? Does that make sense? Could that be possible?"