Even though Barack Obama knew about recurrent cyberattacks months before last year’s election, he chose not to interfere because most of his administration assumed Hillary Clinton would win, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
Back in August, Obama received a highly classified intelligence report outlining the exploits of hackers who breached the Democratic National Committee’s computer networks in attempts to damage or discredit Clinton amid her presidential bid.
The intelligence report tied the hackers to the Russian government and, even further, said they operated on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct instructions to help Donald Trump’s candidacy.
While the Obama administration debated on how to best deal with the information, Obama ultimately chose against strong, direct action before the election. Instead, and only during the transition after Trump’s electoral victory, the Obama administration ejected 35 Russian diplomats from the US, issued a series of warnings, and brought in sanctions against Russia that many saw as merely symbolic.
“Our primary interest in August, September, and October was to prevent them from doing the max they could do,” a senior Obama administration official told The Post. “We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures.”
According to The Post, the assumption that Clinton would get elected played a part in the administration’s decision not to act when it first learned about the hackers — even as evidence mounted that Democratic Party computer networks had been breached.
“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” another senior Obama administration official told The Post. “I feel like we sort of choked.”