President Obama: 'Not Much Happens in Russia Without Vladimir Putin'

President Barack Obama. (C-SPAN)

The FBI and CIA are on the same page now about Russian hacking. After some initial disagreement, the FBI supports the CIA’s conclusion that Russia hacked Hillary Clinton campaign documents to help Donald Trump win the presidency, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP:

In a message sent to employees, CIA Director John Brennan said he had spoken with FBI Director James Comey and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Brennan said in the message that “there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.”

A U.S. official who had seen the unclassified message from Brennan confirmed it to The Associated Press on Friday.

While Trump has downplayed reports of Russian involvement in the hacking, President Barack Obama said it is a fact. During a news conference Friday afternoon, Obama asserted that Russians were responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election. He insinuated that Vladimir Putin played a role but did not explicitly state that the Russian president ordered the hacking.

“Not much happens in Russia without Vladmir Putin,” said Obama. “Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation.”

Obama stressed the importance of cybersecurity to protect national security going forward.

“Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia, or others, not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you,” he said. “But it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way. Some of it we do publicly, some of it we will do in a way they know, but not everybody will.”

The Russian government continued to deny all the hacking accusations. “They should either stop talking about that, or produce some proof at last,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday. “Otherwise, it all begins to look unseemly.”

The public evidence of Russian hacking remains circumstantial at this point. The AP reports that “there has been no specific, persuasive evidence shared publicly about the extent of Putin’s role or knowledge of the hackings. That lack of proof undercuts Democrats’ strategy to portray Putin’s involvement as irrefutable evidence of a directed Russian government plot to undermine America’s democratic system.”

On Wednesday, The Intercept wrote:

There’s a lot of evidence from the attack on the table, mostly detailing how the hack was perpetrated, and possibly the language of the perpetrators. It certainly remains plausible that Russians hacked the DNC, and remains possible that Russia itself ordered it. But the refrain of Russian attribution has been repeated so regularly and so emphatically that it’s become easy to forget that no one has ever truly proven the claim. There is strong evidence indicating that Democratic email accounts were breached via phishing messages, and that specific malware was spread across DNC computers. There’s even evidence that the attackers are the same group that’s been spotted attacking other targets in the past. But again: No one has actually proven that group is the Russian government (or works for it). This remains the enormous inductive leap that’s not been reckoned with, and Americans deserve better.

Earlier in the week, The New York Times reported how Russian cyberpower invaded the U.S.

On Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio program and denied that the Russian government was his organization’s source.

RealClearPolitics provided a brief transcript of their conversation.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Our source is not the Russian government.

SEAN HANNITY: So let me be clear: Russia did not give you the Podesta documents or anything from the DNC.

ASSANGE: Correct.

HANNITY: Can you confirm whether or not you have anything involving hacked info from the RNC?

ASSANGE: We received about three pages of information to do with the RNC and Trump, but it was already public somewhere else.

HANNITY: So in other words: There was nothing significant. There was nothing comparable to [the DNC leaks]. So what Reince Priebus said on Meet The Press this weekend was correct, and NBC got it wrong?

ASSANGE: As far as we’re aware of.

However, Assange did acknowledge that some of the leaked Clinton documents supplied to the media, other than the material WikiLeaks received, may have come from Russia.

“Now, who is behind these [Guccifer 2.0 leaks], we don’t know,” said Assange. “These look very much like they’re from the Russians. But in some ways, they look very amateur, and almost look too much like the Russians.”

President Obama has ordered a “full review” of the hacking from U.S. intelligence agencies. The report is due before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

—Posted by Eric Ortiz

Eric Ortiz
Eric Ortiz is a journalist and innovator with two decades in digital media, Ortiz founded the mobile app startup Evrybit, a live storytelling and reporting tool, as a 2014 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at…
Eric Ortiz

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