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(Russian state television derided Obama as “weak,” “uncivilized,” and a “eunuch.”) Clinton, in Putin’s view, was worse—the embodiment of the liberal interventionist strain of U. foreign policy, more hawkish than Obama, and an obstacle to ending sanctions and reëstablishing Russian geopolitical influence.

At the same time, Putin deftly flattered Trump, who was uncommonly positive in his statements about Putin’s strength and effectiveness as a leader.

But the intelligence community was deeply divided over the actual extent of Iraq’s weapons development; the question of Russia’s responsibility for cyberattacks in the 2016 election has produced no such tumult. Leaders of the Pentagon, the State Department, and the intelligence agencies met during the summer, but their focus was on how to safeguard state election commissions and electoral systems against a hack on Election Day.

Seventeen federal intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia was responsible for the hacking. The operation involved hacking Democrats’ e-mails, publicizing the stolen contents through Wiki Leaks, and manipulating social media to spread “fake news” and pro-Trump messages. That caution has embittered Clinton’s inner circle.

One aide who favored the idea says, “It would have gotten the ball rolling, making it difficult for Trump to shut it down.

Now it’s a lot harder to make it happen.”During the transition, officials in the Obama Administration were hearing that Trump was somehow compromised or beholden to Russian interests.

Americans were more divided along ideological lines than at any point in two decades, according to the Pew Research Center.The Russian government at the highest levels is trying to influence our most precious asset, our democracy, and I’m not going to let it happen.’ A large majority of Americans would have sat up and taken notice. “We said they were doing it, so everybody had the basis to know that all the Wiki Leaks material and the fake news were tied to Russia. meddling mounted, senior national-security officials met to consider a plan of response; proposals included releasing damaging information about Russian officials, including their bank accounts, or a cyber operation directed at Moscow.My attitude is that we don’t have the right to lay blame for the results of this election at anybody’s feet, but, to me, it is bewildering—it is baffling—it is hard to make sense of why this was not a five-alarm fire in the White House.”The Obama circle, which criticizes Clinton’s team for failing to lock down seemingly solid states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, insists that the White House acted appropriately. There was no action we could have taken to stop the e-mails or the fake news from being propagated. Secretary of State John Kerry was concerned that such plans might undercut diplomatic efforts to get Russia to coöperate with the West in Syria—efforts that eventually failed. The Administration did not want to overreact in a way that could seem political and amplify Trump’s message that the vote was rigged.In testimony before the Senate, Clapper described an unprecedented Russian effort to interfere in the U. At first, Trump derided the scrutiny of the hacking as a “witch hunt,” and said that the attacks could have been from anyone—the Russians, the Chinese, or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds.” In the end, he grudgingly accepted the finding, but insisted that Russian interference had had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.” Yevgenia Albats, the author of “The State Within a State,” a book about the K. B., said that Putin probably didn’t believe he could alter the results of the election, but, because of his antipathy toward Obama and Clinton, he did what he could to boost Trump’s cause and undermine America’s confidence in its political system. “We understand the bind they were in,” one of Clinton’s senior advisers said.Putin was not interested in keeping the operation covert, Albats said. He wanted his presence to be known,” and to “show that, no matter what, we can enter your house and do what we want.”Remarkably, the Obama Administration learned of the hacking operation only in early summer—nine months after the F. “But what if Barack Obama had gone to the Oval Office, or the East Room of the White House, and said, ‘I’m speaking to you tonight to inform you that the United States is under attack. All we could do was expose it.”Last September, at a G-20 summit, in China, Obama confronted Putin about the hacking, telling him to “cut it out,” and, above all, to keep away from the balloting in November, or there would be “serious consequences.” Putin neither denied nor confirmed the hacking efforts, but replied that the United States has long funded media outlets and civil-society groups that meddle in Russian affairs.

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