The Obama administration suggested Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized the hacking of Democratic officials’ email accounts in the run-up for the presidential election and said it was “fact” that such actions helped Donald Trump’s campaign. The White House also assailed Trump himself, saying she must have known of Russia’s interference.
No proof was offered for any with the accusations, the most recent to unsettle America’s uneasy transition from eight years under Democratic President Barack Obama to an alternative Republican administration led by Trump. The claims of Russian meddling in the election also have heightened already debilitating tensions between Washington and Moscow over Syria, Ukraine as well as a host of other disagreements.
“Only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, repeating the text from an October U.S. intelligence assessment.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, connected the dots further, saying it absolutely was Putin who was to blame for the Russian government’s actions.
“I don’t even think things happen inside the Russian government of this consequence without Vladimir Putin knowing about it,” Rhodes said on MSNBC.
The explosive accusation paints Putin, the leader of possibly the nation’s greatest geopolitical foe, as having directly undermined U.S. democracy. U.S. officials haven’t contended, however, that Trump would are already defeated by Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8 otherwise for Russia’s assistance. Nor has there’s been any indication of tampering while using vote-counting.
The Kremlin flatly rejected the claim of Putin’s involvement, with Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissing it Thursday as “laughable nonsense.”
The dispute over Russia’s role is fueling an extremely public spat between Obama’s White House and Trump’s team that is certainly threatening to spoil the delicate truce that Obama and Trump have forged since Election Day.
Although the president and president-elect have avoided criticizing each other publicly since Trump’s win, their aides are actually more openly antagonistic. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior transition adviser, said it was “breathtaking” and irresponsible how the White House had suggested Trump knew Russia was interfering to assist his campaign.
That led Obama spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday to unload, arguing that Trump, that has dismissed the CIA’s assessment of Russian interference, should cut back time attacking the intelligence community plus more time supporting the investigation that Obama has ordered.
Earnest stated it was “obvious” Trump knew what Russia was doing throughout the campaign, pointing out that Trump had encouraged Moscow throughout a news conference to locate Clinton’s missing emails. Trump states he was joking.
“I do not think anybody on the White House thinks it’s funny that an adversary from the United States engaged in malicious cyber activity to destabilize our democracy,” Earnest said. “That’s not a joke.”
U.S. intelligence officials have linked the hacking to Russia’s intelligence agency and it is military intelligence division. Moscow has denied all accusations who’s orchestrated the hacking of email accounts of Democratic Party officials and Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta, and after that leaked them for the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Trump and the supporters insist the Democrats’ outrage about Russia is really an attempt to undermine the validity of his election victory. Rep. Peter King, a Trump ally and New York Republican, called it “disgraceful” as they spoke to reporters amassed in Trump Tower after meeting with the president-elect.
“Right now, certain elements with the media, certain elements of the intelligence community and certain politicians are actually doing the work of the Russians,” King said.
Still, Democrats pounced on the most up-to-date suggestions of Putin being connected to the daily drip of emails in the presidential race from some of Clinton’s closest advisers.
Putin was “clearly involved,” said outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
“Having been the first kind head in the KGB, does that surprise you?” Reid said. “And will it surprise anybody today when he denied it?”
Reid’s comments echoed those of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the very best Democrat around the Senate intelligence committee, who said Wednesday it’s hard to consentrate that Putin did not know in regards to the operation. She called suggestions that they was aware in the hacking “very credible.”
There continues to be no specific, persuasive evidence shared publicly regarding the extent of Putin’s role or knowledge with the hackings. That lack of proof undercuts Democrats’ tactic to portray Putin’s involvement as irrefutable evidence of a directed Russian government plot to undermine America’s democratic system.
Secretary of State John Kerry defended Obama’s handling from the issue in the heat with the presidential campaign, a stance now criticized by some Democrats as too weak, but said he wouldn’t discuss whether Putin was involved.
“People have to remember how the president issued an alert,” Kerry said. “But he’d to be obviously responsive to not being viewed as interfering on behalf of a candidate or against a candidate or in a way that promoted unrealistic.