Tuesday 20 August 2019

Barack Obama warns America will 'take action' over Vladimir Putin's hacking of the US election

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Russian President President Vladimir Putin (AP)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Russian President President Vladimir Putin (AP)

Nick Allen

US president Barack Obama warned that America will "take action at a time and place of our choosing" over Vladimir Putin's hacking of the US election.

In a dramatic escalation of the hacking row Mr Obama told National Public Radio: "I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections we need to take action.

"And we will. At a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicised. Some of it may not be."

He added: "Mr Putin is well aware of my feelings about this because I spoke to him directly about it."

Mr Obama was referring to a "candid and blunt" meeting with the Russian president at the G20 summit in China in September.

On Thursday Mr Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed the White House believed Mr Putin was behind the hacking, saying it was "pretty obvious".

The hacking of the Democratic National Committee's emails, and those of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, led to embarrassing revelations for Mrs Clinton.

Mr Obama was careful not to say he believed the Kremlin had wanted to help Donald Trump into the White House.

But he told NPR: "There are still a whole range of assessments taking place among the intelligence agencies. And so when I receive a final report it will give us a comprehensive and best guess as to those motivations."

However, he said the Russian hacking had created "more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign".

He added: "Elections can always turn out differently. You never know which factors are going to make a difference. But I have no doubt that it had some impact, just based on the coverage."

Ben Rhodes, Mr Obama's deputy national security adviser, said: "I don't think things happen in the Russian government of this consequence without Vladimir Putin knowing about it."

A US intelligence official said: "Putin believed Trump would be much friendlier to Russia, especially on the matter of economic sanctions.

"If anything, given his background as a KGB officer, Putin has a much tighter grip on all Russian intelligence operations, civilian and military, foreign and domestic, than any democratic leader does."

In a more wide ranging attack on Mr Putin in the NPR interview Mr Obama said: "This is somebody, the former head of the KGB, who is responsible for crushing democracy in Russia, muzzling the press, throwing political dissidents in jail, countering American efforts to expand freedom at every turn, and is currently making decisions that's leading to a slaughter in Syria."

Telegraph.co.uk

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