Obama Points Finger At Putin Over U.S. Election Hacking

The president said, "Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin"

Dec 16, 2016 at 4:59 PM ET

During his final press conference of the year, President Barack Obama essentially blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for conducting hacks with the intention of influencing the US election. Obama said that the hacks stopped after he confronted Putin at a meeting in China — but the damage was done.

“What we have simply said are the facts,” Obama said to a group of reporters on Friday. “Based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC, and as a consequence, it is important for us to review all elements of that and make sure we are preventing that kind of interference through cyberattacks in the future.”

When asked if Putin directly ordered hacks of the U.S. election, Obama indicated that the Russian leader has a say in virtually every aspect of his country’s actions. “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin,” he said. “This happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.”

Earlier, Obama also recalled an encounter he had with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in China, in which he described approaching the Russian president about the allegations of hacking.

“In early September, when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn’t happen was to talk to him directly and tell him, ‘cut it out,’ and that there would be some serious consequences if he didn’t,” Obama said. “In fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks through WikiLeaks had already occurred.”

Obama put down both Republicans who have publicly praised Putin as well as Russia itself. In addition to saying that Ronald Reagan “would roll over in his grave” if he heard how Republicans spoke about Putin, the president called Russia a “smaller” and “weaker” country. “Their economy doesn’t produce anything anyone wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate,” he said.

Obama warned that the United States’ vulnerability to countries like Russia is directly related to how partisan and dysfunctional our political process is. “They can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values,” Obama said. “Mr. Putin can weaken us, just like he’s trying to weaken Europe, if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like.”