Senate

Dem senators urged Obama to take action on Russia before election

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A pair of Democratic senators warned then-President Obama about Russian hacking and election meddling and urged him to take action against Moscow before the 2016 presidential election, according to newly released materials.

“Such attacks cannot be tolerated and the United States must take immediate measures to ensure that those responsible are held to account,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Ben Cardin (Md.) wrote to Obama in a letter released Friday.

“The seminal event in a functioning democracy is an election, and the international implications of the results of the U.S. election are far reaching. Russia’s actions threaten to undermine our process,” they added in the letter dated Nov. 1, 2016, a week before the election.

The two senators then offered solutions to the president, including freezing assets of individuals who had taken part in cyber activity, expanding the use of secondary sanctions as well as taking proportional cyber responses.

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The letter was released by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security to the transparency project Operation 45 as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Among the released documents were letters from Julia Frifield, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs at the State Department, to the senators on Dec. 7, in which she wrote that the administration “will not tolerate attempts to interfere with the U.S. Democratic process, and we will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing.”

The Obama administration eventually took action in December, a month after Trump won election, with Obama approving targeted economic sanctions and expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S.

The released Democratic letter comes after The Washington Post reported on the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s election meddling, including one official who said the administration “choked.”

The former administration has garnered bipartisan criticism for its handling of reports about Russian election engagement.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) described the Obama administration’s response to Russian meddling as “barely a slap on the wrist,” while President Trump tweeted on Friday asking why Obama did not work harder to stop Russian election meddling.

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