A 2014 report warned the Obama administration that Russia was assembling a massive campaign to disrupt western democracies, potentially including the U.S., but intelligence officials were unable to get "sign-offs" from the administration to respond, Politico reports. "The truth is, nobody wanted to piss off the Russians," said one intelligence official.
The 2014 report quoted a Russian source who warned American officials, "You have no idea how extensive these networks are in Europe ... and in the U.S., Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments, and militaries in all of these places."
"[The Obama administration was] warned," said one current administration official. "They underestimated it until it was too late. They just didn't know how to deal with the bad guys."
Many intelligence officials had wanted to push back on Moscow, endorsing proposals to expel Russian diplomats, launch targeted counterintelligence campaigns, and close two Russian dachas suspected of being intelligence-gathering sites. National security agencies still hesitated: "Any of these actions risked a Russian reciprocation," said one former NSC official. "We were kind of caught in a catch-22." Read the full report at Politico.