Hillary Clinton has accused the Russian
president, Vladimir Putin, of personally directing a cyberattack against her as revenge for a five-year-old slight.
intelligence agencies blame Russian hackers for targeting the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta. The emails were published by WikiLeaks and widely reported by media during the US presidential election. The CIA has reportedly concluded that the Russians were trying to swing the election for Donald Trump.
The hacking sprang from Putin’s “personal beef” against her, Clinton told donors in Manhattan on Thursday, according to a report in the New York
Times. She cited criticism she made as secretary of state that Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections were rigged as the motive.
“Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” Clinton was quoted as saying.
Podesta and other aides have criticised the media for underplaying Russian involvement. Addressing donors who poured millions into her campaign and are still reeling from the outcome, Clinton said: “Make no mistake, as the press is finally catching up to the facts, which we desperately tried to present to them during the last months of the campaign.
“This is not just an attack on me and my campaign, although that may have added fuel to it. This is an attack against our country. We are well beyond normal political concerns here. This is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation.”
According to the New York Times report, Clinton said her stunning defeat by Donald Trump could be explained by two “unprecedented” events: Putin’s effort to “undermine our democracy” and the ill-timed release of a letter by James Comey, director of the FBI, which said fresh emails had come to light in its investigation into her private server.
“Swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days breaking against me because of the FBI letter from Director Comey,” said the Democrat, who won the popular vote by 2.8m votes but effectively lost the electoral college by 77,000 ballots in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In an interview with National Public Radio on Friday, Barack Obama warned that the US would retaliate for the Russian cyber-attacks during the presidential election.
The US president said he was waiting for a final report he has ordered into a range of Russian hacking attacks, but promised there would be a response.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action,” Obama said. “And we will – at a time and place of our own choosing.
“Some of it may be explicit and publicised; some of it may not be.”
The CIA has judged that the Russian cyber-attacks, including the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee, were intended to influence the election in Trump’s favour, according to reports. The FBI agrees that there was Russian hacking but has not as yet concluded it was intended to favour the Republican contender.
Senators from both parties have called for a congressional inquiry, while Trump himself has rejected the reports and his office has derided the CIA.
Trump weighed in on Twitter to ask if it was the “same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?” One of the hacked emails, from the interim DNC head, Donna Brazile, said that a woman from Flint, Michigan, would ask at a primary debate with Bernie Sanders what Clinton would do as president to help people in the town suffering from a lead-contaminated water supply.
He earlier tweeted: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House
wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”
In fact, the intelligence community had issued its statement on 7 October, a full month before polling day.
Obama said he would reserve judgment on Moscow
’s intentions pending a final report but he said the impact of the intervention was clear. The debate over motivation, he said “does not in any way, I think, detract from the basic point that everyone during the election perceived accurately – that in fact what the Russian hack had done was create more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign”.
He added: “There’s no doubt that it contributed to an atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time were Hillary’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC.”
The president did not attempt to gauge the full impact of the intervention, but insisted it had had an effect.
“Elections can always turn out differently,” he said. “You never know which factors are going to make a difference. But I have no doubt that it had some impact, just based on the coverage.”
In the NPR interview, Obama expressed incredulity at Republican party support for Trump’s foreign policy positions, which have been uniformly supportive of Putin.
“This is somebody, the former head of the KGB, who is responsible for crushing democracy in Russia, muzzling the press, throwing political dissidents in jail, countering American efforts to expand freedom at every turn; is currently making decisions that’s leading to a slaughter in Syria
,” the outgoing president said.
“And a big chunk of the Republican party, which prided itself during the Reagan era and for decades that followed as being the bulwark against Russian influence, now suddenly is embracing him.”