US polls cyberattack orchestrated by Putin's Russia, Obama alleges
This was Obama's last press conference of the year as he heads for the traditional Christmas vacation. Photograph: (Reuters)
President Barack Obama has alleged that Russia possibly under President Vladimir Putin's directions carried out cyberattacks during the US polls, as he urged his successor Donald Trump to ensure that the American election process is not under potential "foreign influence".
"What I can tell you is that the intelligence that I've seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack. Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin," Obama told reporters during a White House news conference, indicating Putin's involvement.
"They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it," he said yesterday.
A worried Obama also lashed out at Russia for its alleged effort to influence the US election, saying the country does not produce anything and lacks innovation.
"We've got to think what is happening to our political culture here. The Russians can't change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don't innovate," Obama said.
Obama assured Americans that the ballot itself was not rigged and promised to "send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us, because we can do stuff to you."
"But they can impact us if we lose track of who we are.
They can impact us if we abandon our values. 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," he said.
Terming it a "pretty hierarchical operation", Obama said there was not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the US.
"We have said and I will confirm that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government and I will let you make that determination as to whether there are high-level Russian officials who go off rogue and decide to tamper with the US election process without Vladimir Putin knowing about it," he said.
Obama said he had raised the issue when he met Putin recently in China.
Obama also hopedhis successor Donald Trump will show equal concern to ensure that the American election process is not under a potential "foreign influence".
"My hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don't have a potential foreign influence in our election process. I don't think any American wants that. And that shouldn't be a source of an argument," Obama said.
The US President also called for bipartisan unity on the issue.