President Obama has ordered a review of hacking connected to the 2016 election. The final report is to be completed before he leaves office next month but may not be made public because some of the material could be classified. From the Associated Press:
The review, led by intelligence agencies, will be a “deep dive” into a possible pattern of increased “malicious cyber activity” timed to the campaign season, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. The review will look at the tactics, targets, key actors and the U.S. government’s response to the recent email hacks, as well as incidents reported in past elections, he said.
The president ordered up the report earlier this week and asked that it be completed before he leaves office next month, Schultz said.
The intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC, the DCCC and other political organizations. So what exactly is the motive for a report on this topic now? The administration was quick to claim that it was not an attempt to undermine the results of the election:
Schultz said the president sought the probe as a way of improving U.S. defense against cyberattacks and was not intending to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.
“This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election,” Schultz said.
Politico reports that Schultz also said the report was “unrelated” to requests from Democratic lawmakers for more information. However, Obama’s move follows a recent request by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer for more information:
The chorus for action ebbed and flowed over the last few months, with Democrats calling on GOP congressional leaders to launch various probes into the Kremlin’s involvement and on the White House to share with the public how it reached its conclusion.
But the campaign surged back into the spotlight this week, when House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and the highest-ranking Democrats on several national security-focused House committees sent a letter to Obama asking for administration officials to brief all members of Congress on Russian efforts to influence the election.
NBC News is reporting another possible motivation. Obama is concerned the Trump’s administration won’t do anything to punish Russia:
Given President-elect Donald Trump’s repeated insistence that he does not believe U.S. Intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election, Obama is concerned that Russia will go unpunished for the behavior unless he acts, administration officials have told NBC News.
Russia really was responsible for the hacking but that doesn’t mean there are no ulterior motives at work in the creation of this report. As we saw during the campaign, Democrats appeared more eager to use this story to delegitimize Donald Trump than they were to respond forcefully to Russia’s bad behavior. The report won’t insure a response from the Trump administration but it will give congressional Democrats the ammunition they have been requesting.