Former national security advisor Susan Rice issued a stand down order to national security council officials developing aggressive options to respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a new excerpt from Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump reveals.
NSC officials were reportedly alarmed by Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, including the hacking of Democratic National Committee officials’ emails, and those belonging to Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Michael Daniel, an NSC official responsible for the Russia portfolio, told to the book’s authors of multiple plans to strike fear in Russian President Vladimir Putin with the aim of ending Russia’s election meddling. These plans included surreptitiously releasing personal information about Putin’s family, which revealed corruption in Putin’s political party, and even crafting a large cybersecurity exercise as a public threat to Russia.
Daniel additionally told the authors that when Rice caught wind of his planning, she called him and berated him.
One day in late August, national security adviser Susan Rice called Daniel into her office and demanded he cease and desist from working on the cyber options he was developing. “Don’t get ahead of us,” she warned him. The White House was not prepared to endorse any of these ideas. Daniel and his team in the White House cyber response group were given strict orders: “Stand down.” She told Daniel to “knock it off,” he recalled.
Obama officials have since lamented “we sort of choked” in response to the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The former president instead took it upon himself to warn Putin in person during a face-to-face meeting in September 2016 to “knock it off” in terms of election meddling with a an explicit warning of consequences if it continued.