- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2016

President Obama said Friday he hopes that President-elect Donald Trump starts to show appropriate concern about allegations of Russian hacking into the U.S. election system, complaining that many Republicans were more worried about defeating Hillary Clinton than they were about Moscow’s alleged meddling in the election.

“My hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don’t have foreign influence in our election process,” Mr. Obama said at his year-end press conference at the White House. “That shouldn’t be the source of an argument.”

Asked if he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to help Mr. Trump, the president said, “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin.” He said the intelligence reports he’s seen give him “great confidence” in the assessment of the CIA and the FBI that Russia carried out the hacking.

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Mr. Obama also blasted Republican officials, and GOP voters, for expressing positive views of Mr. Putin, noting that a recent poll found that 37 percent of Republican voters approve of the former head of the KGB. Mr. Trump has called Mr. Putin a strong leader.

“Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave,” Mr. Obama said.

The president blamed partisan divides in Washington, saying the GOP was more interested in hurting Democrats than taking a stand against the autocratic Russian leader.

“Unless that changes, we’re going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence,” he said.

The White House has grown increasingly hostile to Mr. Trump and his team for rejecting the administration’s argument that Russia hacked into Democratic officials’ emails and leaked them in an effort to help defeat Hillary Clinton. The Trump team has called on the White House to tone down its rhetoric for the good of the nation.

Mr. Obama said there’s no doubt that Russia is responsible for the hacking, and that he told Mr. Putin to “cut it out” when he met him in China in September. He said there will be “consequences” for the cyberattacks, adding that the U.S. response would increase the “costs” to Russia of future cyberattacks.

The president said the U.S. retaliation for Russia’s action must be carried out in a “thoughtful, methodical way.”

“Some of it we will do in a way that they know, but not everybody will,” he said.

Mr. Obama also chided journalists for publishing news stories based on the stolen Democratic documents.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said the U.S. needs a more robust response to Russia.

“Blaming journalists for coverage and mere scolding of dictators for cyberattacks isn’t a winning strategy,” Mr. Sasse said. “Instead of President Obama’s vague ‘we can do stuff,’ Congress should debate upending Putin’s calculus with a full menu of diplomatic, economic, military, and cyber responses. This isn’t new: China’s OPM hack and Russia’s aggressions make it clear our adversaries think these attacks are low-cost, high-reward gambles.”

Asked if he believes Mrs. Clinton lost the election because of Russian meddling, the president declined to answer directly. He did say “I don’t think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the [media] coverage of her and the issues was troubling.”

Mr. Obama said the issue of Russian hacking has been “caught up in the carryover from election season.” But he said he will still insist on a smooth transition to help Mr. Trump’s team take over power.

“I think they would be the first to acknowledge that we have done everything we can,” Mr. Obama said. “That cooperation is going to continue.”

The news conference was interrupted for several minutes when a journalist in the crowded press briefing room fainted. Mr. Obama stood at the podium and asked for staff to bring a doctor.

Other journalists eventually helped the woman out a door, where she was greeted by a White House physician who had been summoned.

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