President Barack Obama has ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in election-related hacking.
via USA Today:
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” President Obamasaid in a statement, describing the efforts to interfere in the election as a threat to the democratic process.
Obama also suggested that the Russians sought to affect previous elections via cyber-espionage, and that the U.S. would engage in covert retaliation activity.
The administration will soon “be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections,” he said.
President-elect Donald Trump — who on Wednesday said “I think we ought to get on with our lives when discussing possible sanctions” — continued to downplay the allegations but said he would meet with intelligence officials soon to get more information about Russia.
“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation,” he said in a statement issued Thursday evening.
Trump and his aides have said that Democrats are pushing the Russian hack story as part of an effort to explain away the loss by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.The Russians, meanwhile, vowed retaliation of their own.
In addition, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement accusing Russia of a decade-long cyber campaign targeting American government, infrastructure and citizens in general.
Obama signed an executive order outlining economic penalties for individuals and organizations involved in “tampering with, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.”
The sanctions affect “nine entities and individuals,” Obama said: “The GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”
They did not include Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Obama strongly suggested that he knew about the Russian hacking activity because “these data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian president will develop a response to the new U.S. sanctions, and told reporters that “there is no doubt that this adequate and mirror response will make the U.S. side feel very uncomfortable as well.”
Peskov said Obama pushed forward with sanctions “to further harm Russian-American ties, which are at a low point as it is, as well as, obviously, deal a blow on the foreign policy plans of the incoming administration of the president-elect.”
The Obama administration also expelled 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the U.S. and shut down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, which Obama said were “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.”
Russia is likely to respond in kind by kicking out U.S. officials from its country; the U.S. has claimed that its diplomats in Russia have been harassed for years in any case.
The Russian embassy in the United Kingdom taunted the White House on Twitter Thursday, calling the penalties “lame” and saying that “everybody … will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm.”
U.S.intelligence agencies have accused the Russians of getting involved in the election in order to help Trump win the presidency, accusations that Putin and other Russian officials have denied. These agencies are conducting a formal investigation, and Congress is likely to conduct a probe of its own.
Sh*t is getting real.