President Obama told NPR on Thursday that America will "take action" against Russia for trying to "impact the integrity of our elections," and will do so "at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be." In the interview, to be broadcast on Friday's Morning Edition, Obama said that the full review he has ordered of cyberattacks on U.S. elections would aim to provide "a comprehensive and best guess" as to Russia's motivations, but everyone has long "perceived accurately" that "what the Russian hack had done was create more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign."
The entire U.S. intelligence community had unanimously and publicly concluded in October that Russia was trying to "disrupt" the presidential election, and that the hacking could only have been authorized by "Russia's senior-most officials." In the NPR interview Obama did not endorse the CIA assertion that Russia was aiming to explicitly get Donald Trump elected, saying there are "still a whole range of assessments taking place among the agencies."
Still, "there's 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," Obama said. "Elections can always turn out differently. You never know which factors are going to make a difference," he added, but "Russia understood what everybody else understood, which was that this was not good for Hillary Clinton's campaign."
Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest and Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said it was pretty clear even in October that the intelligence community believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the attack. "I don't think things happen in the Russian government of this consequence without Vladimir Putin knowing about it," Rhodes said on MSNBC.
It's not clear what the U.S. can or will to do retaliate against Russia, or if Trump will have any interest in taking action. "The United States retains significant, extensive cyber capabilities that exceed the capabilities that are wielded by any other country in the world," Earnest said, declining to specify. The U.S. has tried to arrest Russian hackers, but "Russia does not extradite its citizens and has shown that it will not easily be deterred through public shaming," The New York Times reports. "You can indict 400 people," said former FBI computer-investigation chief Robert Anderson. "They don't care."