President Barack Obama has donned his “pop off” hat and put Russia President Vladimir Putin on notice that the U.S. may retaliate against the country for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, reports the Associated Press.
“Whatever they do to us, we can potentially do to them,” Obama said Friday at his last press conference of the year. The day before, the president called Russia a small, weak country that doesn’t innovate or “produce anything anyone wants to buy … except oil, gas and arms.”
The president strongly defended his administration's response to the hacks since news dropped last week that the CIA let the administration know as early as September that some close to the Russian government were trying to tip the U.S. election in President-elect Donald Trump’s favor.
The president was not the only one briefed by the intelligence agencies, and he called out Republicans who he said fail even now to acknowledge the seriousness of Russia's involvement in U.S. elections—some of whom now say they approve of Putin.
“Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave,” Obama said.
Yesterday’s remarks offer the strongest suggestion to date that Obama linked Putin to campaign email hacking. Though he didn’t state that explicitly, he noted that “not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin” and repeated a U.S. intelligence assessment “that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.”
AP reports that Obama said he confronted Putin in September, telling the former KGB chief to “cut it out” a month before the U.S. publicly pointed the finger at Russia. He also said the U.S. “did not see further tampering” after that date.
The Washington Post reported that Russian hackers hit both the Democratic and Republican party officials, but only Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman’s stolen emails were released in the final weeks of the campaign on WikiLeaks.
On Friday, CIA Director John Brennan said in a message to employees that the FBI agrees with the CIA’s conclusion that Russia's goal was to help Trump win.
President-elect Donald Trump has dismissed the CIA (and now FBI) assessment as “ridiculous,” arguing that both Democrats and the CIA are trying to undermine his victory and that the hacks could have come from anywhere.