- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2016

President Obama’s admission Friday that he asked Vladimir Putin in September to halt Russia’s cyber attacks prompted a rebuke by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who said the comment shows how “weak” the outgoing executive’s handling of the Kremlin has been.

Fielding questions about the hacking campaign during his last scheduled press conference as president, Mr. Obama on Friday said he personally appealed to Mr. Putin earlier this year and told him to stop the cyberattacks or face “serious consequences.”

U.S. officials “did not see further tampering of the election process” afterwards, Mr. Obama added. According to Mr. Graham, however, Moscow was hardly deterred by Washington’s warning.

“Clearly Putin was not impressed by Obama threat in September to cut it out or face consequences,” Mr. Graham tweeted on Friday in response to Mr. Obama’s remarks.

“There would be no strong Putin without a weak Obama,” the senator said in a subsequent tweet. “President-elect Trump won’t become the 3rd American president to misjudge Vladimir Putin,” he wrote in another.

A frequent critic of the Kremlin, Mr. Graham has repeatedly called on his congressional colleagues in recent weeks to investigate Russia’s purported use of computer hacks and email leaks to influence the outcome of this year’s White House race. Earlier this week those pleas took a  personal turn when the former presidential hopeful accused Russian hackers of compromising his own recent White House campaign.

“Our campaign vendor that we use was hacked,” Mr. Graham told CNN on Wednesday. “We were told by the FBI in August that we were hacked in June.”

The U.S. intelligence community announced in October that its investigators were confident that the Russian government ordered a hacking campaign waged against American targets in the run-up to last month’s election, including the Democratic National Committee and other organizations and individuals tied to the Democratic Party, and security researchers have since tied those hacking campaigns to similar efforts waged against victims including former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.

“I do believe the Russians hacked into the DNC. I do believe they hacked into Podesta’s email account. They hacked into my campaign account,” Mr. Graham told CNN this week.

That activity, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

“Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Obama said at Friday’s press conference. “This happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.”

Mr. Putin has denied the allegations. Nonetheless, the U.S. will retaliate at a “time and place of our own choosing,” Mr. Obama said Friday. 

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