Obama discusses Trump's involvement in possible Russian hacking of US election

Barack Obama warns of 'clear relationships' between Trump and Putin

Russia and President-elect's team have 'professed shared view', says incumbent US leader

Harriet Agerholm@HarrietAgerholm
Tuesday 13 December 2016 14:07
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Barack Obama has said there are “very clear relationships” between members of Donald Trump’s team and Moscow, after he ordered a “full review” of possible Russian hacking in the US election.

Mr Obama said his acknowledgement of the link should come as no "big surprise”, since the US government has previously publicly blamed Moscow for hacking against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the lead up to the vote.

The incumbent leader called the hacked emails “not a particularly fancy brand of espionage or propaganda,” and expressed concern that "frankly not very interesting" documents were able to dominate debate ahead of election day.

“The President-elect in some of his political events specifically said to the Russians, ‘Hack Hillary’s emails so that we can finally find out what’s going on, and confirm our conspiracy theories,” Mr Obama told The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

“You had what was very clear relationships between members of the President-elect’s campaign team and Russians, and a professed shared view on a bunch of issues.”

In October, the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security accused the “senior-most” levels of Russian government of directing the cyber attacks.

Multiple members of the President-elect’s team – past and present – have been affiliated with Moscow, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who exited the team after an avalanche of stories raised questions about his involvement with pro-Putin movements in Ukraine.

Other Russian-affiliated Trump team members include his choice of national security advisor, Michael Flynn, a retired general who was paid last year to speak at an event hosted by Vladimir Putin.

Mr Obama added: “I don’t think there was any doubt among anybody in the media or among members of Congress as to who was being advantaged or disadvantaged by the political gossip that was being put out in drip-drip-drip fashion leading up to the election.”

Revelations from emails belonging to the DNC repeatedly shook the Clinton campaign in the run up to the election, and critics have held them as partly responsible for the Democrat's loss.

Mr Obama asked: “What is it about our political ecosystem, what is it about the state of our democracy where the leaks of what were frankly not very interesting emails that didn’t have any explosive information in them [...] ended up being an obsession, and the fact that the Russians were doing this was not an obsession?”

The probe into Russian interference by US intelligence will be one of the incumbent President’s final instructions to the intelligence agencies, which will soon report to Donald Trump.

After announcing the review, deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz denied it was an attempt to “challenge the outcome of the election”, saying Mr Obama’s team “acknowledged who won”.

The inquiry will scour the last three presidential election cycles for evidence of foreign interference and Mr Obama expects it to be completed before he leaves office, the White House has said.

The government has yet to detect any increased cyber activity on the 2016 election day and Mr Trump's team has criticised the review, saying it was "time to move on".

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