President Barack Obama fumbled the ball on responding to Russian meddling during the 2016 election. That appears to be the growing consensus among Democrats. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, mentioned last week that the Obama administration could have done more. On CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria, co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), said that President Obama “choked” on Russia.
“Do you think that the Obama administration choked and should have done more when they knew the Russians were interfering [in the 2016 election]?” asked Zakaria.
“With the value of hindsight, yes,” replied Warner.
Yet, the Virginia Democrat tried to offer some cover, saying that there were many threads of information coming in and no one seemed to have been able to put them together. Really? The Washington Post’s bombshell article reported that the Obama White House knew as soon as August of 2016 that Russia was interfering, and that they feared what the Russians might do if they responded. Hence, the bunker mentality, coupled with a weak post-election response, which amounted to a slap on wrist, according to former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell. He told CBS’s Face The Nation on June 25 that the Obama administration actually did a decent job coordinating with other states to shore up security efforts with their voting systems. Yet, he noted the response to all of this was an abject failure and did nothing to deter the Russians from engaging in other interference activities in the future [emphasis mine]:
I think they get a high grade, because I think they prevented this from being worse than it would have been otherwise. That's first thing.
The second thing is the decision not to share fully with the American people what was happening. So, the Obama administration did not tell the American people that Putin was behind this and did not tell the American people what Putin was trying to do, hurt Hillary Clinton, support Donald Trump. That's a big, big decision.
You know, the White House, I think, was exactly where David [Ignatius of The Washington Post, another guest] said they were, which is they didn't want to make this worse. But by not entering the playing field, they ceded it to Vladimir Putin. So, I give them a C on that, and I think historians are going to debate this for a long time.
The third issue is how to deter the Russians in the future from doing this again, and here I think they failed miserably. I give them an F, because the package they put together, the kicking the diplomats out, intelligence officers out, closing down a couple of compounds, putting limited sanctions on in no way -- it was a slap on the wrist to Vladimir Putin. He sees it that way. It will not deter him in the future.
Was this an election hack? No. The 21 election systems that were targeted were not related with vote tabulations. The vote tallies were also not altered by the Russians. Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch said no “technical interference” occurred on election night, and DHS did not detect any spikes in malicious cyber activity that would have suggested an attack that night either. It was an interference game mostly grounded in the peddling of fake news by state-funded media outlets and social media trolls—and those fake news stories played no pivotal role in the election. Just like with Ukraine, Obama virtually did nothing with Russia, a nation that supposedly was no longer a threat and relic of the Cold War era. Now, borderline Russophobia permeates the Democratic Party.
Also, before we draw conclusions regarding Russia, Putin, and the interference campaign, it was only the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA who said they had high confidence that Putin ordered this interference campaign. It wasn't all 17 intelligence agencies, which is something The New York Times had to clear up.