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Obama Orders Sweeping Review Of International Hacking Tied To U.S. Elections

President Obama has ordered the intelligence community to conduct a "full review" of "malicious cyber activity" timed to U.S. elections, the White House said Friday.

The review will go all the way back to the 2008 campaign when China was found to have hacked both the Obama and McCain campaigns, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said at a Friday press briefing.

In the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence officials charged that Russia had interfered. In early October, they released a strongly worded statement saying they were "confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations." The statement went on to say "these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process."

Shortly after that, WikiLeaks began posting emails hacked from Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta's Gmail account. The slow drip of those emails, including transcripts of Clinton's remarks to Goldman Sachs, hung over the campaign in its closing weeks and proved embarrassing at times. Podesta said he spoke to the FBI about the hacking, and intelligence experts blamed Russia for that as well.

"We may be in, have crossed into a new threshold," said Lisa Monaco, the White House homeland security adviser, at a breakfast Friday morning hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, of the 2016 hacking. "It is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after action, to understand what this means, what has happened and to impart those lessons learned, and that's what we're going to go about doing."

Schultz said the review would look at "all foreign actors and any attempt to interfere with our elections." He added, "This isn't going to be a narrow dive; this is going to be a deep dive" into this troubling pattern.

He also noted the White House will aim to release as much of the review as it can appropriately to the public and will also brief Congress and other stakeholders.

This news comes as Republican members of Congress are promising their own investigations into Russian hacking around the election. But all of that would be in direct conflict with the view of President-elect Donald Trump, who, in a debate earlier this year, questioned whether Russia was even behind it.

"I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, could also be lots of other people," Trump said. "It also could be somebody sitting on the bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?"

In a recent interview with Time magazine, Trump went further, saying, "I don't believe they interfered."

Schultz deflected when asked whether Obama had let Trump know he was ordering this review.

The review is due to be completed before Jan. 20, when Trump takes office.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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