President Barack Obama has condemned suspected Russian interference in the November’s US election and vowed to strike back.
Mr Obama has told NPR News: “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action.”
“And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing.
“Some of it may be explicit and publicised; some of it may not be.”
His comments are the clearest indication to date that whatever response the US is planning has not yet occurred.
And according to University of Melbourne’s US Election Watch editor James Cahill incoming president Donald Trump is unlikely to act when he takes office on January 20, leaving any response up to President Obama.
“He’s only got so much time that he is going to do something that will show Russia there’s a cost for you doing this,” Mr Cahill told The New Daily.
“He said that a time of our choosing, in a way that may be public or not, that something is coming.”
Mr Cahill said America’s response would be subtle and something it could deny, suggesting it could be a cyber attack.
“I don’t believe he would move military assets, I don’t believe he’s going to do anything antagonistic along the western-eastern European divide, but something in the cyber realm of power grids or communication systems,” he said.
“I think it would be something he would want to be able to have deniability as opposed to something saying: ‘Yes we just did that to you’.
“Because that could be interpreted as an act of war if you admit you really did something like that.”
Mr Obama – who has five weeks left in office – said some of the response may be classified, but other parts may be public.
US intelligence officials earlier concluded that hackers working for Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, and the private email of John Podesta, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s top adviser.
And White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday (US time) went further, suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the hack.
Obama cautious not to blame Putin
Mr Obama, however, was careful not to imply that Russia’s goal was to ensure Mr Trump won the election, and declined to point a finger at President Putin.
“There are still a whole range of assessments taking place among the agencies,” he told National Public Radio, referring to his order for US intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of the email hacking.
He said he had spoken directly to Mr Putin about his feelings towards the hacking.
Mr Obama said his goal was to have a definitive White House report on Russia’s motive handed down before President-elect Trump took office on January 20.
“And so when I receive a final report, you know, we’ll be able to, I think, give us a comprehensive and best guess as to those motivations,” he said.
“But that does not in any way, I think, detract from the basic point that everyone during the election perceived accurately — that in fact what the Russian hack had done was create more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign.
“There’s no doubt that it contributed to an atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks at a time, months at a time were Hillary’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC.”
Trump’s perplexing stance on Russia
Mr Obama also questioned how the Republican Party and Mr Trump could dismiss intelligence assessments tying the DNC and Mr Podesta hacks to Russia.
“The irony of all this, of course, is that for most of my presidency, there’s been a pretty sizeable wing of the Republican Party that has consistently criticised me for not being tough enough on Russia,” he said.
“Some of those folks during the campaign endorsed Donald Trump, despite the fact that a central tenet of his foreign policy was we shouldn’t be so tough on Russia.
“And that kind of inconsistency I think makes it appear, at least, that their particular position on Russia on any given day depends on what’s politically expedient.”
The president referenced a recent poll that found Republican voters’ views on Mr Putin changed before and after the 2016 presidential election.
“This is somebody, the former head of the KGB, who is responsible for crushing democracy in Russia, muzzling the press, throwing political dissidents in jail, countering American efforts to expand freedom at every turn; is currently making decisions that’s leading to a slaughter in Syria,” he said.
“A big chunk of the Republican Party, which prided itself during the Reagan era and for decades that followed as being the bulwark against Russian influence, now suddenly is embracing him.”