President Obama’s decision to not act sooner on Russian election interference last year was “a very serious mistake,” says California Rep. Adam Schiff.
“I think the administration needed to call out Russia earlier, and needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier and I think that was a very serious mistake,” Schiff said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Schiff, the top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Obama was hesitant to confront Russia over its active measures campaign for fear of being seen as helping Hillary Clinton and of fueling Donald Trump’s allegations that the election was being “rigged” against him.
“But both of those factors did not outweigh…the public’s need to know” about Russia’s hacking, Schiff said.
“The American people needed to know,” he added.
Obama’s response to Russia’s hacking became a hot topic of debate earlier this week after a Washington Post report revealing the inaction which gripped the Obama administration even after the intelligence community determined that the Kremlin was behind the cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign.
One administration official told The Post that the White House “sort of choked” with its weak response.
“I think the Obama administration should have done more when it became clear that not only was Russia intervening but it was being directed at the highest levels of the Kremlin,” Schiff said Sunday.
Schiff faulted Obama for not issuing a statement attributing the cyber attacks to Russian state-sponsored hackers. Instead, intelligence community officials released a statement in October tying the Kremlin to the attacks. Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in private conversations in September to end its active measures campaign.
Despite that, Russia continued its attempts to infiltrate voter information in at least 21 states.