Obama Administration Close to Announcing Russia’s Punishment for Election Interference

President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 12, 2016
Evan Vucci-Pool/Getty Images

According to U.S. officials, the Obama administration is close to announcing a series of measures, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure, to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.

The details are being finalized, and officials told the Washington Post that they could include covert action that will likely involve cyber operations. The public elements of the response could be announced as early as next week.


According to the Post, the sanctions portion of the package comes after weeks of debate on how to revise a 2015 executive order that was meant to give the president authority to respond to overseas cyberattacks but did not cover efforts to influence the electoral system.

The order was used as a  threat last year to get China’s president to pledge that he would stop hacking U.S. companies’ secrets to benefit Chinese firms, but officials concluded this fall that, as written, the order could not be used to punish Russia for hacking Democratic organizations, targeting state election systems and meddling in the presidential election.

Russia has denied involvement in the hacking.

The clock on Obama’s administration is winding down, and the Post reports that the White House is working to adapt the authority to punish the Russians as well as make it difficult for President-elect Donald Trump to roll back any action it takes.


According to the Post, administration officials would like Obama to use the power before leaving office to demonstrate its ability.

“When the president came into office, he didn’t have that many tools out there to use as a response” to malicious cyber acts, said Ari Schwartz, a former senior director for cybersecurity on the National Security Council. “Having the sanctions tool is really a big one. It can make a very strong statement in a way that is less drastic than bombing a country and more impactful than sending out a cable from the State Department.”


Read more at the Washington Post.

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