President Obama has ordered the intelligence community to conduct a “full review” of “malicious cyber activity” during the 2016 election, according to Lisa Monaco, the White House homeland security adviser.
In early October, intelligence officials released a strongly worded statement saying they were “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” The statement went on to say “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
Shortly after that, WikiLeaks began posting emails hacked from Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account. The slow drip of those emails, including transcripts of Clinton’s remarks to Goldman Sachs, hung over the campaign in its closing weeks and proved embarrassing at times. Podesta said he spoke to the FBI about the hacking, and intelligence experts blamed Russia for that as well.
Monaco, who was speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, said the 2016 intrusions should be put in the context of Chinese hacking of both the Obama and McCain campaigns in 2008.
“We may be in, have crossed into a new threshold,” said Monaco of the 2016 hacking and election interference by Russia. “It is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after action, to understand what this means, what has happened and to impart those lessons learned, and that’s what we’re going to go about doing.”
This news comes as Republican members of Congress are promising their own investigations into Russian hacking around the election. That would be in direct conflict with the view of President-elect Donald Trump, who, in a debate earlier this year, questioned whether Russia was even behind it.
“I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, could also be lots of other people,” Trump said. “It also could be somebody sitting on the bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
In a recent interview with Time magazine, Trump went further, saying, “I don’t believe they interfered.”
That review ordered by Obama is due to be completed before Jan. 20, when Trump takes office. Monaco says it will be presented to Congress and other stakeholders like local elections officials, but she didn’t commit to releasing it to the public.