President Barack Obama gave Russia a stern warning about its reported hacking efforts during the US presidential election, saying that the country will “take action” to counter foreign meddling.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections that we need to take action. And we will—at a time and place of our own choosing,” Obama told NPR in an interview that aired on Friday morning (Dec. 16). “Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be. But Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it.”
American intelligence officials have said that on orders from the Russian government, hackers infiltrated the servers of the Democratic National Committee and broke into the email account of John Podesta, head of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Obama avoided saying that Russia helped install Trump as US president, but said that there is “no doubt that it contributed to an atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time, were Hillary’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC.”
The Kremlin responded by calling the accusations “indecent.” “They need to either stop talking about this or finally present some sort of proof,” said Putin’s spokesman. President-elect Donald Trump has called the claim “ridiculous” and politically motivated.
Obama had some harsh words for the Russian president, whom the White House press secretary Josh Earnest said had a direct role in the hacking, agreeing with US intelligence reports revealed on Thursday:
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; is currently making decisions that’s leading to a slaughter in Syria. And a big chunk of the Republican Party, which prided itself during the Reagan era and for decades that followed as being the bulwark against Russian influence, now suddenly is embracing him.
His assessment of Putin came as he referred to a recent poll by YouGov and The Economist that indicated that the feelings of Trump voters toward Russia and its leader have significantly warmed. In July, 67% of Trump supporters viewed Russia as unfriendly or as an enemy, a share that dropped by 11 percentage points by December. Thirty-five percent of Trump voters have a favorable view of Putin, a nine-point jump since July.