The leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is endorsing a suggestion that the Obama administration quickly fire back on Russia for its alleged election interference by exposing embarrassing information about President Vladimir Putin.
“One [response] that appeals to me is one that has been discussed by commentators. And that is revealing corruption within the Kremlin and Putin’s own corruption,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House CIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta MORE (D-Calif.) said in an interview with The Atlantic.
“That’s a genie that can’t be put back in the bottle by the next president.”
Schiff is pushing Obama to respond to Russia before he cedes the office to Donald Trump, who critics worry won’t take any action to counter the Kremlin.
“I have no confidence that President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE will bring about any sanctions on Russia. I’m more worried that he’s going to repeal the sanctions we already have than impose new ones,” Schiff said. “So I think the administration ought to do what it’s going to do ASAP.”
The president has indicated that the White House will respond at “a time and place of our choosing,” but has given few other details other than to suggest that the measures may be clandestine — done without the knowledge of the American people.
The administration has publicly attributed attacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other political organizations — including Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Armageddon elections to come Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' MORE campaign chair John Podesta’s personal email account — to Russian intelligence. The subsequent release of those stolen emails through WikiLeaks and other outlets is believed by officials to be an attempt by the Russian government to meddle in the U.S. election.
The CIA and the FBI have reportedly assessed that the hacking and subsequent data dumps were an explicit effort to help Trump attain the White House — done at Putin’s behest. Critics have characterized the influence operation as an attack on American democracy.
Trump, meanwhile, has virulently denied the reports. The president-elect frequently praises Putin and has expressed hope that Moscow and Washington can work together more in the future.
The Obama White House has a range of possible responses at its disposal, each of which comes with its own set of risks.
Among those options is some kind of public measure to damage Putin’s image among the Russian people.
"It's well known that there's great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs," retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News in October. "It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we've seen.”
Although Russia experts note that Putin’s corruption is already a well-known fact in Russia, some say exposing the breadth of his wealth could ding him politically.