Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted the White House on Sunday for how it handled Russian hacks in the runup to the election, saying the U.S response to the meddling has been “paralyzed” so far.
“The president has no strategy and no policy as to what to do about these various cyberattacks that have possibly disrupted an American election,” McCain told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “There’s no doubt they were interfering. The question now is how much, what damage [was done], and what should the United States of America do. So far we’ve been totally paralyzed.”
Speaking to reporters Friday, President Barack Obama defended the White House response to the cyberattacks, saying the administration wanted to be careful not to incite more hacking that could tip vote counts. The president wanted to send a message that “we can do stuff to you,” he said, without making the situation worse.
“There have been folks out there who suggest somehow if we went out there and made big announcements and thumped our chests about a bunch of stuff, that somehow it would potentially spook the Russians,” Obama said. “I think it doesn’t read the thought process in Russia very well.”
Speaking Sunday, McCain mocked the idea of Russian President Vladimir Putin backing down to a veiled threat.
“I’m sure when Vladimir Putin was told, ‘Cut it out,’ I’m sure he immediately stopped all cyber activity,” McCain said. “The fact is they are hacking every single day, in other areas of our military and all kinds of different aspects of American life that they’re able to penetrate.”
The CIA has determined that Russia interfered in the election in an effort to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, a conclusion the FBI apparently agrees with. The president-elect has said he doesn’t believe that assessment and has mocked the intelligence community.
Obama said on Friday that he was still considering a handful of options for addressing the hacks during his last month in the White House. He warned that the deep partisan divisions in the country make the U.S. more exposed to meddling by foreign powers.
“Unless that changes,” he said, “we’re going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence because we’ve lost track of what it is that we’re about and what we stand for.”