President-elect Donald Trump continues to question whether the Russian government tried to interfere in the U.S. election. Trump has said it could have been China who hacked emails of Democratic operatives and the Democratic National Committee. Or someone "sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds."
And if it is the Russians, why did the White House wait so long to act? Trump asked on Twitter.
"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?" Trump tweeted early Dec. 15.
Only that’s not true. The administration announced its findings a month before Election Day, and the White House’s announcement prompted a memorable exchange at the final presidential debate.
Who’s the puppet?
On Oct. 7 — a few months after WikiLeaks released a trove of DNC emails, but the same day WikiLeaks released emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta — President Barack Obama’s administration said it was confident Russia was behind the cyberattacks.
"The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations," read an Oct. 7 joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The U.S. Intelligence Community consists of 17 agencies and organizations within the executive branch, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence speaks on the group’s behalf.
Their statement said releases of alleged hacked emails on DCLeaks.com and Wikileaks and by the online persona Guccifer 2.0 were "consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts."
"These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process," the statement said. "Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."
Clinton used the statement as ammo when she referred to Trump as Putin’s preferred "puppet" in the Oct. 19 presidential debate. ("No puppet, you’re the puppet," Trump replied.) When Clinton brought up the intelligence community’s statement, Trump said, "She has no idea whether it is Russia, China or anybody else."
After the election, Trump has been just as dismissive about Russian involvement.
On Dec. 12, Trump also questioned the timing of concerns about election-related hacks, tweeting, "Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?"
According to a New York Times investigation, Obama warned Putin about the cyberhacking and potential U.S. retaliation in person at the G-20 summit in China.
The administration, however, chose to issue the joint written statement from Homeland Security and the national intelligence director rather than a more public rebuke from Obama. "It was far less dramatic than the president’s appearance in the press room two years before to directly accuse the North Koreans of attacking Sony," the New York Times noted.
Obama was aware of Russian hackers previously targeting the State Department, White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the New York Times reported, but he chose not to publicly call out Russians or issue sanctions out of "fear of escalating a cyberwar, and concern that the United States needed Russia’s cooperation in negotiations over Syria."
Trump 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?"
About a month before the Nov. 8 election, the Obama administration accused Russia of interfering in the U.S. elections, directing the release of emails "from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations."
This didn’t happen under the radar. Trump was confronted with it at the final presidential debate.
For a ridiculously wrong statement, we rate it Pants on Fire!