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Obama Orders ‘Full Review’ of Russian Hacking

Probe won't be limited to 2016 election cycle

President Barack Obama expects the report on Russian hacking efforts during the election to be finished before he leaves office. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)
President Barack Obama expects the report on Russian hacking efforts during the election to be finished before he leaves office. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

President Barack Obama has directed the intelligence community to conduct a “full review” of Russian hacking efforts during the U.S. presidential campaign, a senior administration official said Friday, amid growing calls from Congress for greater public clarity on the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the elections.

White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa O. Monaco said Obama expects the report to be finished before he leaves office on Jan. 20. It will be shared with Congress, she said, but it is unclear whether it will be made available to the public.

“We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action to understand what this means, what has happened, and to impart those lessons learned,” she told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement in October blaming the Kremlin for breaches targeting Democratic Party institutions. It also concluded that the leak of allegedly hacked emails was consistent with the “methods and motivations” of Russian-directed efforts.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprising win over Hillary Clinton, Democrats on the Hill have been pressuring the White House to disclose more information on the Kremlin’s interference campaign. They have also clamored for a strong response to ensure similar hacking efforts don’t target future U.S. elections.

The Obama administration, however, has taken a cautious approach, saying it will respond at a time and in a manner of its choosing.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and one of the most outspoken lawmakers on the issue, welcomed the White House decision to order an intelligence review of the hacking surrounding the campaign.

“The administration should work to declassify as much of it as possible, while protecting our sources and methods, and make it available to the public,” the California Democrat said in a statement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi viewed the decision favorably as well, and stressed that it was not intended to delegitimize the outcome of the presidential race.

“A full review of election-related cyberattacks is essential to protecting the integrity of our democracy — and it would be, even if the outcome was different and Hillary Clinton had been elected president,” she said in a statement.

[Congress Increasingly Concerned About Russian Election Meddling]

Late last month, seven Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to the president, urging him to declassify information related to the Russia actions.

House Democrats followed up this week with a similar letter to the White House from ranking members on national security-related committees, calling on the administration to brief all members of Congress on Russian hacking.

Democrats have pressed their case in an effort to push back against Trump’s dismissive remarks about the Russian hacking. The president-elect has repeatedly brushed aside the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian responsibility, claiming no one knows who was behind the hacks.

Schiff, in his statement Friday, said Trump’s “disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community” gives “an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office.”

Some Republicans in Congress, where lawmakers have staked out a harder line on Russia than the president-elect, have promised to take a closer look at Moscow’s role in the hacking around the U.S. election. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, said this week that he plans to hold a series of hearings on the matter.

“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” the South Carolina Republican told CNN. “I think they did interfere in our elections and I want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally to pay a price.”

In her comments with reporters, Monaco noted that previous U.S. election campaigns have been targeted by state-sponsored hackers, including the 2008 and 2012 races.

The great leap forward in the 2016 election, however, was the publication of information stolen through cyberbreaches on websites such as WikiLeaks.

At the White House, spokesman Eric Schultz said the review will look back at other election cycles. He also said it will examine U.S. defenses and assess all malicious activities.

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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