President Obama defended his administration’s election year reaction to intelligence that Russia was behind email hacks of Democratic Party officials which played a sizeable part in the 2016 campaign, though Mr. Obama made clear at a year end news conference that the Russian meddling did not alter the counting or casting of votes in November.
“The intelligence that I’ve seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack,” the President said, “the hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta.”
By not dramatically addressing it in the months before Election Day, the President said he erred on the side of caution during the campaign, not wanting to be seen as playing favorites by publicly revealing the Russian interference.
“That’s exactly how we should have handled it. Imagine if we had done the opposite, it would have immediately become one more political scrum,” the President said in the White House briefing room.
Mr. Obama said he personally brought up the issue with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in September – and told him to stop.
Echoing the assessment of the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Obama said once the Russians had been called out, most of their election hacking adventures ended.
The President has come under some fire from fellow Democrats for not speaking out before the election about the efforts to undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton – but Mr. Obama stuck to his argument that to have done anything else would have politicized the issue even more.
Asked by reporters about the election, the President acknowledged that his party failed to connect with many voters who don’t live in larger urban areas.
He said Democrats must work harder in those areas to win over voters.
“That’s something I would have liked to have done more of but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House.”
Just as the President began his news conference, major news organizations reported that the CIA and FBI were now on the same page about Russia’s intentions – as the U.S. Intelligence Community believes the Russians were trying to support Donald Trump, not just cause some trouble for the 2016 race.
After those reports surfaced today – courtesy of that internal CIA notice – the Director of National Intelligence put out another written statement, reiterating their conclusions about Russian involvement.
In his final news conference, Mr. Obama also repeatedly chided the news media for spending so much time on the Podesta emails in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.
“You guys wrote about it every day. Every single leak, the President said, “including John Podesta’s risotto recipe.”