WASHINGTON — President Obama has ordered American intelligence agencies to produce a full report on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, his homeland security adviser said on Friday. He also directed them to develop a list of “lessons learned” from the broad campaign the United States has accused Russia of carrying out to steal emails, publish their contents and probe the vote-counting system.
“We may have crossed a new threshold here,” Lisa Monaco, one of Mr. Obama’s closest aides and the former head of the national security division of the Justice Department, told reporters Friday. “He expects to receive this report before he leaves office.”
The report, according to senior administration officials, will trace the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and on prominent individuals like John D. Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
But it is unclear that the contents of the report will be made public. Intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which still has an active investigation of the hacking underway, have been reluctant to make public any of their findings; they fear it will reveal sources and methods of how the incursions were traced back to Russia. After past investigations involving sensitive intelligence information, declassified versions of reports were sometimes published, with a classified version sent to congressional committees and some agencies.
President-elect Donald J. Trump has consistently questioned whether hacking happened, and if it did whether Russia was responsible. He has suggested that the effort to blame Russia was, in fact, an effort to discredit him and his call for closer relations with Moscow.
Mr. Trump repeated those doubts in a Time magazine interview published this week. “I don’t believe it,” he said. “I don’t believe they interfered.” He suggested that American intelligence reports attributing the attacks to Russia were driven by politics, not facts.
In early October, after considerable infighting, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, issued a joint statement saying that Russia was behind the hack of the Democratic Committee. It suggested that the activity had to have been approved at the highest levels of the Russian government.
But Mr. Obama has rarely talked publicly about the hacking campaign, even though aides say it has been a preoccupation of his since last summer. He said far more in public about North Korea’s hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment two years ago, a case over which he issued sanctions against the North Korean government. There have been warnings to Russia but no public penalties over the hacking accusations.
On Capitol Hill, the pressure for deeper investigations and a broader release of intelligence findings is growing. Seven Senate Democrats asked the White House earlier this week to declassify some of their conclusions, a step that Ms. Monaco said the intelligence agencies were now considering. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, has vowed to hold hearings on Russian activities, including efforts to get into military systems.
Representative Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said earlier this week that the hacking was “a wake-up call and a call to action,” and said there had to be “consequences.” He has also promised hearings.
Source: New York Times