Russia’s Putin Hacked the US Elections To Make Donald Trump President: Obama Vows Retaliation

With the Russians demanding to see evidence that implicates them in cyber-attacks, President Barack Obama is vowing retaliation for hacking operations aimed at interfering with the U.S. election.

“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing,” the president told NPR on Thursday.

“Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be,” he added.

The Russians, meanwhile, are scoffing at the accusations as their spy-turned-president, Vladimir Putin, continues a visit to Japan.

“It’s time either to stop talking about this or finally to present evidence,” Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Otherwise it starts to look highly indecent.”

For his part, Putin has kept mum on the issue as U.S. officials say that they have solid evidence that Putin personally ordered and directed the brazen cyber operations, that – in notable cases – saw the private emails of prominent Democrats spilled out into public view.

“Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it,” Obama told NPR, referring to a sideline discussion between the two leaders at a G20 summit in China this past September.

But while the Russians attempt to deflect, the intelligence community remains steadfast in their assessment.

“They know with a near certainty that Putin was involved – that’s not something they say lightly,” Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant who served in the administrations of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes. “That’s something they say when they do have a smoking gun.”

Indeed, the intelligence community is so convinced that the one-time KGB colonel and master spy is behind the attacks that officials now say he will be a line of inquiry in an FBI investigation into the matter.

“If you mess with the United States, we will mess with you back,” John Carlin, the former head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, told ABC News. “It’s very important that we show that we are capable of figuring out who did it because the deterrence depends on that.”

It’s important that the U.S. starts, “taking actions to show others that’s it’s not open season on the United States’ systems whether they are private companies or the government,” he added.

But whether the incoming president is prepared to make an example of those who have attacked America in cyberspace isn’t clear.

From his skyscraper office in New York, President-elect Donald Trump has continued to defend Russia and Putin, as he did throughout the campaign and in the weeks since the election.

“Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?” Trump tweeted shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday, referring to accusations that Democratic operative and CNN commentator Donna Brazile leaked a question to Hillary Clinton ahead of a Democratic primary debate hosted by the network. Brazile has also contributed to ABC News.

Those accusations point to potentially unethical behavior but it isn’t clear that Brazile would have broken any laws.

That tweet was the second in less than 24 hours in which the incoming president underscored his skepticism of the intelligence community’s assessments and suggested concerns over Russian hacking was politically motivated.

More: Trump in Denial as Evidence Grows Spymaster Putin Behind Election Hacks
But, sitting at the top of Trump tower in Manhattan, Trump is growing increasingly lonely in his opposition to the intelligence community’s conclusions.

As evidence has mounted, fellow Republicans are now warning the Russian hacking could jeopardize the confirmation of Trump’s pick to be Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson – the CEO of Exxon and an unabashed admirer of Putin.

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Source: Patrick Reevell, James Gordon Meek, Matthew Mosk and Paul Blake contributed to this report.

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