If you’ve been following the news cycle for the last several weeks you’re aware that right-wing blogs and news agencies have been claiming that President Barack Obama was directly involved in hiding the fact that Russia was attempting to hack the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
In reality, the Washington Post uncovered a set of circumstances that made it illegal and impossible for President Obama to speak about the situation as it was unfolding.
The story uncovered two truths: Obama was trying to do the right things and Republicans stopped that from happening by taking every measure possible.
As Russia waged a silent war on U.S. politics, the Obama administration chose to focus on tightened security and gave the case the care is needed and deserved.
An Envelop Arrives At The White House
In early August 2016, an envelop arrived at the White House under “extraordinary handling restrictions.” The CIA delivered the envelope with “eyes only” instructions for President Obama and three senior aides.
CIA Director John Brennan was so concerned with the information contained in the envelop that he kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief. The envelop came with instructions that the documents be returned “immediately” after being read. Fearful of leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room went forward with similar security measures being taken.
It was still early in the investigation and the CIA wasn’t sure to what extend Russia went to rig the U.S. election in favor of the Republican Party.
Capturing Putin’s Instructions
The CIA, early in its investigation, received intel that Russia President Vladimir Putin had demanded that Russian agent defeat or damage Hillary Clinton’s chances at winning the U.S. election against Donald Trump.
The intelligence community began to pull together the resources needed to prove the Republican Party was receiving assistance from the Russian Government.
The CIA would not confirm nor deny any allegations. If President Obama revealed details of the investigation and they turned out to be false, he would have been found guilty of interfering with the election himself.
With the understanding that Putin was working to undermine the U.S. Government, President Obama worked closely with the intelligence community to respond, if possible, to Russia’s growing attacks against the U.S. political establishment.
An Endorsement Of The CIA’s Claims
In the beginning, it was only the CIA who called out Russia for its cyber-attacks against the United States. Eventually, the FBI and other intelligence agencies started to also focus on the attacks. It wasn’t until Obama’s final weeks in office that he learned of Putin’s attempts to elect Donald Trump.
Making The Situation Worse
President Obama realized that releasing information could lead to criticism and speculation. He feared that the situation would only get worse and lead to incorrect reports and narratives about the GOP’s involvement with Russian.
Obama instructed aides to gain bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help. It was a pushing point that they couldn’t get past in Obama’s last weeks in office.
As President Obama attempted to gain bipartisan support, many Republicans in Congress put off meetings with the President, delaying the process, in some cases, by weeks.
Jeh Johnson attempted to designate election infrastructure as “critical,” in order to give them the same protection provided to defense contractors.
Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview.
Despite numerous reports from various intelligence agencies, Kemp still believes it’s unlikely Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.
Hurting Obama Was More Important For Republicans
The actions of Republican leaders pointed to their decision to hurt Obama more than stopping Russia. By refusing to take action, the party as a whole, proved its willingness to collude with Russia.
Republican leaders then tried to justify their lack of action. Republicans argued that warning the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went on to voice skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. He declined to comment further.
In the end, the GOP’s refusal to participate in the investigation forced President Obama to remain silent for a long period of time. Unlike Trump who will tweet out anything that pops into his head, President Obama followed the letter of the law and the law failed the American people.
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James Kosur is the former Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of Hill Reporter. He recently served as an editor for Business Insider and various other publications. James and his partners sold Hill Reporter to a new owner in July 2019.