Widespread paralysis in the Obama administration prevented the U.S. from developing an effective response to combat Russian hacking in the 2016 election, according to a new, bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The panel found that the U.S. government “was not well-postured to counter Russian election interference activity with a full range of readily-available policy options.”
The Obama administration issued “high-level warnings of potential retaliation” to Moscow, however the Kremlin “continued its cyber activity, to include further public dissemination of stolen emails, clandestine social media-based influence operations, and penetration of state voting infrastructure through Election Day 2016.”
The response to the digital assault was also “tempered … over concerns about appearing to act politically on behalf of one candidate, undermining public confidence in the election, and provoking additional Russian actions,” the panel found.
The 54-page, partially redacted report does show that the administration felt constrained by partisanship, not only on the campaign trail, but in Congress. It details resistance by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to issuing a bipartisan statement in 2016 about the Russian effort.
Former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco recalled a conversation with McConnell where he stated “you security people should be careful that you’re not getting used,” which she interpreted as the GOP leader doubting the intelligence concluding Russia was attempting to interfere.
The Senate report marks the third installment of the panel’s five-volume series outlining the scope of Russian election interference in 2016. The report focuses exclusively on the Obama administration’s efforts to deal with Moscow’s interference ahead of Election Day.
“After discovering the existence, if not the full scope, of Russia’s election interference efforts in late-2016, the Obama Administration struggled to determine the appropriate response,” Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement. “Frozen by ‘paralysis of analysis,’ hamstrung by constraints both real and perceived, Obama officials debated courses of action without truly taking one.