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Obama: I 'Underestimated' Impact of Russian Meddling on Election

  • VOA Staff

FILE - President Barack Obama in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

U.S. President Barack Obama said following a U.S. intelligence conclusion that Russia meddled in the November presidential election that a similar thing could happen again, and that it is important for Congress and President-election Donald Trump to make sure such influence is "minimized."

A declassified version of the intelligence report released Friday said Russian President Vladimir Putin "ordered an influence campaign" on the election with a preference for Trump over his challenger Hillary Clinton.

Obama told ABC News in an interview broadcast Sunday he ordered the assessment "to make sure that we understand this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe, initially in the former satellite states where there are a lot of Russian speakers, but increasingly in Western democracies."

The president, whose second term ends January 20, added that he underestimated how much it is possible for misinformation and hacking to impact open societies and "insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating."

Obama said more time and resources need to be used on cyber security, and that he hopes the situation is not seen in a partisan way.

A part of the declassified version Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia's efforts to interfere with the U.S. political process is photographed in Washington, Jan. 6, 2017.
A part of the declassified version Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia's efforts to interfere with the U.S. political process is photographed in Washington, Jan. 6, 2017.

"One of the things that I am concerned about is the degree to which we've seen a lot of commentary lately where there were, there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seemed to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans were Democrats," he said. "That cannot be."

FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 8, 2016.
FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 8, 2016.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia hacked thousands of emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, which were released by WikiLeaks. The report made no assessment that the leaks changed the outcome of the election, a point Trump has noted in a string of Twitter comments since he was briefed about it on Friday.

"Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results," Trump said. "Voting machines not touched!"

He said, "Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place. The Republican National Committee had strong defense! Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!"

FILE - President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016.
FILE - President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016.

Trump's pick for White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told Fox News in a Sunday interview that Trump accepts Russia was responsible for the hacking. Priebus repeatedly criticized the DNC's cyber security efforts, saying it left a "wide open door" for a foreign government to access its systems.

Obama has had one face-to-face meeting with Trump, shortly after the election, and has talked with him several times. He said Sunday they have spoken about trust in the U.S. intelligence agencies.

"When I talked to him about -- our intelligence agencies, what I've said to him is that there are going to be times where you've got raw intelligence that comes in and in my experience, over eight years, the intelligence community is pretty good about saying, 'Look, we can't say for certain what this means.'"

FILE - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 5, 2017.
FILE - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 5, 2017.

But Obama added, "There are going to be times where the only way you can make a good decision is if you have confidence that the process is working. And the people that you put in charge are giving you their very best assessments."

Obama said he also has talked to Trump about his penchant for tweeting an array of taunts and messages on Twitter.

"I've said to him, and I think others have said to him that the day that he is the president of the United States, there are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he says, and in a way that's just not true before you're actually sworn in as president," Obama said.

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