Trump repeats wish to move on but says he will fulfill intelligence officials while Putin regime considers response to White House measures
The Obama administration on Thursday announced its retaliation for Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election, ordering sweeping new sanctions that included the expulsion of 35 Russians.
US intelligence services believe Russia ordered cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee( DNC ), Hillary Clintons campaign and other political organisations, in an attempt to influence the election in favor of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.
In a statement issued two weeks after the president said he would respond to cyber-attacks by Moscow at a time and place of our choosing, Obama told Americans should be alarmed by Russias actions and pledged farther action.
I have issued an executive order that offer additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our friends or partners, Obama said in the statement, released while he was vacationing with his family in Hawaii.
Using this new authority, I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four someone officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRUs cyber operations.
In addition, the secretary of the treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause embezzlement of funds and personal identifying information. He also announced the closure of two Russian compounds in the US.
Obama added that more actions would be taken, some of which will not be publicized.
On Thursday, Trump, who has previously dismissed reports of Russian interference in the election, said in a statement: Its period for our country to move on to bigger and better things.
He added, however, that in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.
In a conference call with reporters, senior White House officials said the president-elects transition team was informed of international sanctions before they were announced on Thursday. Trump and Obama spoke on Wednesday, they said.
The officials added that the actions were a necessary response to very disturbing Russian threats to US national security.
There has to be a cost and a consequence for what Russia has done, a senior administration official told. It is in a extraordinary step for them to interfere in the democratic process here in the United States of America. There needs to be a price for that.
In Moscow, a Putin spokesman told Russia regretted the new sanctions and would consider retaliatory measures.
Diplomatic expulsions are usually met with precisely reciprocal action. In this case, however, Moscow may pause for thought. With Trump, who has spoken positively about Russia and Vladimir Putin, just three weeks away from the White House, Russia may feel it is inadvisable to kick out 35 US diplomats.
However, Russian authorities on Thursday ordered the Anglo-American School of Moscow closed, according to CNN, quoting a US official briefed on the matter. The school serves children of US, British and Canadian embassy personnel, and would effectively make a Russian posting difficult for US diplomats with families.
Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying the US move represented the death throes of political corpses.
The Twitter feed of the Russian embassy in London, meanwhile, called the Obama administration hapless and attached a picture of a duck with the word LAME emblazoned across it.
On the White House call, officials were asked about the prospect of Trump overruling international sanctions. They acknowledged that a future chairperson could reverse course but warned against such an inadvisable step.
We have no reason to believe that Russias activities will cease, a senior official told. One reason why I think it is necessary to sustain these actions is because theres every reason to believe Russia will interfere with future US elections.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats praised the presidents action, called for further measures and underlined bipartisan is supportive of a thorough investigation into Russian hacking.
I hope the incoming Trump administration, which has been far too close to Russia throughout the campaign and transition, wont suppose for one second about weakening these new sanctions or our existing regime, incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Both parties ought to be united in standing up to Russian interference in our elections, to their cyber attacks, their illegal annexation of Crimea and other extra-legal interventions.
Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, called for further sanctions from the new Congress when it convenes in January.
GOP leaders were quick to frame the new sanctions as too little, too late.
While todays action by the administration is overdue, House speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as an excellent example of this administrations ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.
Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two of Russias fiercest critics, echoed Ryan but also called for tough Congressional sanctions.
Ultimately,[ international sanctions] are a small cost for Russia to pay for its brazen attack on American republic, the two men said in a joint statement. We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia.
The 35 Russian diplomats being expelled are intelligence spies, Obama told. The state department has declared them persona non grata and they will be given 72 hours to leave the country.
Starting on Friday at midday, the White House told, Russia will be denied access to compounds in Maryland and New York that have been used for intelligence-related purposes.
A statement from the state department said the diplomatic expulsions were a answer not only to hacking but to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas, that has increased over the last four years, including a significant increase in the last 12 months.
The statement said the harassment has included arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on country Tv of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk.
For some time, US diplomats in Russia have anecdotally reported being followed and harassed by police.
In June, a US diplomat was wrestled to the ground by a policeman as he scrambled to get inside the embassy. Russian authorities said the man was a CIA agent operating under diplomatic cover.
Read more: www.theguardian.com