The White House has suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized the series of high-profile cyberattacks on US government organizations that took place this year. The Obama administration also said it was a “fact” that the hacks helped Donald Trump win the election, and the President-elect must have known what Russia was doing. In response to the interference, Barack Obama said the US must and will take action against the country.
Earlier this week, the CIA concluded that Russia had been promoting Trump over Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the election. The agency reportedly found that while Russian-backed hackers compromised both the Republican National Committee (something it denies) and several Democratic organizations, they passed only the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks, thereby damaging Clinton’s campaign.
At a press conference yesterday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "Only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."
Another senior White House official, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, named Putin directly. "I don't think things happen in the Russian government of this consequence without Vladimir Putin knowing about it," he said on MSNBC. "When you're talking about a significant cyber intrusion like this, we're talking about the highest levels of government."
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest believes it was “obvious” that Trump knew what Russia was doing. The Republican has called the CIA’s report “ridiculous,” while his senior transition adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said the suggestion Trump knew about the Russian interference was “breathtaking” and irresponsible.
Barack Obama says Russia will now face the consequences of its actions. He told NPR News that the US will respond at a “time and place of our choosing,” and that while some of the response may be explicit and publicized, some of it may not. The President added that he has spoken directly to Vladimir Putin about the hacking.
Back in November, American officials warned Russia that it would face a US attack on its key systems if it interfered directly with the vote itself. The Kremlin has called the accusations of Putin’s involvement “laughable nonsense.”