- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2016

The Obama administration has already blamed Russia with interfering in the U.S. election process, but the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee says the Kremlin isn’t merely meddling.

Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, accused Russia this week of waging cyberattacks to help put Donald Trump in the White House.

“Based on media reports I have seen and briefings I have received, I can only conclude that the Russian government is attempting to interfere in our election with the goal of electing Donald Trump,” Ms. Feinstein, the intel committee’s top-ranking Democrat, said in a statement Thursday.

“The hacking of political institutions, the recent hacking of John Podesta’s email account and the release of other faked documents are clear efforts to discredit the Clinton campaign and represent yet another unacceptable step in what appears to be an attempt by the Russians to fix this election. Every elected official and candidate in the United States, including Trump, should vocally and forcefully reject these efforts,” she said.

Ms. Feinstein’s remarks came less than a week after the Obama administration took the rare step of formally attributing Russian hackers with conducting cyberattacks waged against various facets of the American political system, including several high-profile security breaches suffered in recent months by the Democratic Party and numerous affiliated individuals and organizations.

Ms. Feinstein and colleagues from either side of the aisle have previously suggested Russia is behind a wave of computer hacks and email leaks endured by Democrats in the run up to next month’s election, but the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence squarely blamed Moscow in a statement last week, saying the administration “is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the statement said, adding that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has reportedly been briefed by the intelligence community about Russia’s purported part in the cyberattacks. However, he has repeatedly disputed the attribution, including during both recent presidential debates.

“I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — [Hillary Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking,” Mr. Trump said during the most recent debate Sunday. “But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia.”

Democrats have continued to land on the receiving end of these cyberattacks in the wake of the Obama administration’s statement last week, most recently with the hacking of a personal email account belonging to Mr. Podesta, the chairman of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“This level of meddling by a foreign power can only be aimed at boosting Donald Trump and should send chills down the spine of all Americans, regardless of political party,” Mr. Podesta said Wednesday after his personal correspondence began being published by WikiLeaks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday waging cyberattacks against the U.S. wasn’t in Moscow’s interest and blamed Washington with stirring up anti-Russian hysteria and “manipulating public opinion” prior to next month’s election.

According to Ms. Feinstein, the U.S. must retaliate if Mr. Putin doesn’t put an end to the attacks.

“The administration should be prepared to take forceful action to respond to Russian actions if President Putin is unwilling to do so,” she said Thursday. “Americans should not and will not stand for these illegal and illegitimate attempts by the heirs of the KGB to corrupt our election system.”

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