Ash Carter, Obama’s former secretary of defense, is another top figure that agrees with the assessment that his former boss should have done more in response to the reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Carter made these remarks, though he walked on eggshells so as to not criticize Obama too harshly while being interviewed by CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union.
“I think he did take some actions and as I said, in Defense, we took a wide range of actions—to me this was part of a pattern, to me personally, this was part of a pattern with Vladimir Putin, but I think it’s quite clear that that was not sufficient,” Carter said. “This is not just a matter of looking backward, it’s an important question for our future because it’s important that Americans when they go to the ballot box, and those in other countries as well, understand and be assured that the Russians haven’t been there first,” he added.
He did emphasize again that Obama took steps, but said that from the response seen by the Russians over this whole affair, that the response was not adequate. This echoes the observation of former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who said that the Obama administration did work with states to shore up the security measures within their election systems. On the questions about disclosing the matter publicly, that’s a question still up for debate. According to Morell, “by not entering the playing field, they ceded it to Vladimir Putin.” On deterrence, he said the administration failed miserably. The Russians view this as a slap on the wrist. The sanctions package had de minimis effect, and we just booted suspected Russian operatives from a couple of compounds.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, also said that the Obama White House should have done more, with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying Obama choked in his response. All of this comes after a Washington Post report that Obama knew about the Russian meddling in August of 2016.
At the same time, no vote tallies were changed, no malicious cyber activity that would suggest a hack spiked on election night, the systems targeted in 21 states did not deal with vote tabulation, and the deluge of propaganda that was peddled by social media trolls and state-funded news outlets played no pivotal role in the election. Also, let’s not forget that hacking an American election is virtually impossible.