GOP lawmaker presses Bolton to examine Obama administration's response to Russian cyberattacks

GOP lawmaker presses Bolton to examine Obama administration's response to Russian cyberattacks
© Greg Nash

A GOP lawmaker is calling on White House national security adviser John Bolton to investigate whether Obama administration officials appropriately responded to Russian cyberattacks during the 2016 election.

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong President Trump is right: Mainstream media 'do a very good job' New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (R-Texas) in particular asked Bolton to examine whether the Obama administration instructed officials to "stand down" in response to Moscow's aggression, a matter that was raised during a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that reviewed the Obama and Trump administrations' responses to Russian interference during the contested presidential race.

"Michael Daniel, the cybersecurity czar for former President Obama, confirmed to Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China Overnight Defense: US exits landmark arms control treaty with Russia | Pentagon vows to 'fully pursue' once-banned missiles | Ratcliffe out as intel pick | Trump signs budget deal that boosts defense | Trump defends North Korea's Kim as 'friend' MORE (R-ID) that former national security advisor Susan Rice issued a 'stand down' order in August 2016 in response to Russian cyber-attacks during the 2016 presidential campaign," Ratcliffe wrote in a Monday letter to Bolton. 


Ratcliffe asked Bolton to see whether Rice issued the directive "on her own volition, or at the behest of other Obama Administration officials," as well as what justification — if any — she used to support such an order.

Daniel had told lawmakers during the hearing last week that they had shifted their attention to protecting electoral infrastructure in light of the Russian threat, rather than responding in an offensive way to the attacks.

Efforts to respond to Russia, Daniel said, were "put on the back burner."

"We shifted our focus in that September and October timeframe to focus heavily on better protecting and assisting the states in better protecting the electoral infrastructure and ensuring that we had as great a visibility as possible into what the Russians were doing and developing our — essentially an incident response plan for Election Day," he told the committee during the Wednesday hearing.

The matter arose when Risch pressed Daniel on a news article that quoted him as saying they had been told to stop working on efforts to counter Russian attacks.

"At his morning staff meeting, Daniel matter-of-factly said to his team it had to stop working on options to counter the Russian attack. 'We have been told to stand down,'" Risch said, quoting Daniel as attributed in a Mother Jones article

Daniel also noted that the Obama administration had been seeking to limit how many people were working on counter measures.

"I can say that there were many concerns about the widespread — how many people were involved in the development of the options. And so the decision at that point was to neck down the number of people that were involved in developing our ongoing response options," he continued.

"It's not accurate to say that all activities ceased at that point," he added.

His letter comes as House conservatives continue to escalate their feud against the FBI and Justice Department as they seek to obtain key documents on how the government launched its probe into Russian interference. 

Ratcliffe in his letter noted that the Obama administration, at this time, had also "launched an aggressive investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia."

The counterintelligence investigation, now being led by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE, is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.