Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said on MSNBC Monday morning that although the Obama administration knew of Russian hacking as early as summer of 2016, the administration did nothing initially out of concern for being labeled as “taking sides.”
“Well, Joe, Mika, you have to really put yourself back in the Situation Room in 2016 with what we knew at the time. And this is a debate, frankly, I’ve been having with Adam for the last eight months and so — and you have to also put things in various different buckets, the hacking became clear and it became clear this was something personally ordered by Vladimir Putin by late summer, 2016,” Johnson stated. “The priority then was to tell the American people, we were dealing with a variety of cross considerations about whether to inject ourselves into a very heated political campaign and whether the national security apparatus of our government should put itself in a position where we could be accused of taking sides but nevertheless we did tell the American public on October 7, that was a statement Jim clapper and I issued.”
Although states themselves sought out warnings from the DHS after the Obama administration did finally choose to let the American people know of hacking in October, Johnson claimed, “It didn’t get the attention it should have.”
“But Mr. Secretary, it seems to me that President Obama didn’t want to interfere in part because he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. So why get involved with something, get attacked as being partisan when you think Hillary Clinton is going to win anyway?” posed host Joe Scarborough.
Johnson answered by blaming the Access Hollywood video for taking attention away from the Obama administration’s public recognition of cyber security threats, saying “hindsight is twenty-twenty.”
“October 7 is the same day as the ‘Access Hollywood; video and all the talk that weekend after our statement is ‘When is Trump going to withdraw from the race? How much longer does he have?’ So that was clearly a backdrop,” he explained. “But please understand we were very concerned about — in a campaign where one of the candidates is saying the outcome is going to be rigged, doing something that would be perceived as taking sides in that election. Nevertheless, we told the American people, we took a number of steps that we believed were appropriate at the time.”