Obama, Trump and Russian Hacking

President-elect Donald Trump speaking to the media on Wednesday. Credit Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “U.S. Punishes Russia Over Election Hacking” (front page, Dec. 30):

The Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia for meddling in our election put Donald Trump in a very difficult position. If Mr. Trump still wants to be friendly with Russia, he is playing right into its hands and becoming Russia’s patsy.

If Russia ends up undermining and manipulating us once again, it will make Mr. Trump look like a weak, foolish and naïve president and could end up severely damaging American interests.

The sanctions are more of a message to Mr. Trump than to President Vladimir Putin, to show that Russia can’t be trusted.

KENNETH L. ZIMMERMAN

Huntington Beach, Calif.

To the Editor:

While I applaud President Obama for enforcing sanctions against Vladimir Putin and the Russian hackers, I think there must also be harsh financial sanctions. Why aren’t known Russian assets in the United States frozen? Merely kicking spies or alleged spies out of our country and closing compounds isn’t enough. Mr. Putin must be made to feel the full weight of our government’s and citizens’ disapproval of his actions.

No person or potential political candidate should feel threatened by such a preventable act as hacking. I implore our intelligence and security services to work together for the common good, and for our government to seek avenues of repudiation so egregious they make prospective hackers recoil from future criminal activities.

PAMELA LANG

Burbank, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Initially Dismissive, Trump Agrees to a Briefing but Reiterates His Call to ‘Move On’ ” (news article, Dec. 30):

Donald Trump’s cavalier and almost bored response to Russian cyberattacks should raise a big red flag for every American regardless of party. This isn’t something we should “move on” from. This is serious stuff. A hostile foreign government successfully interfered in our national election.

Why aren’t Americans marching in the streets, demanding to know exactly how and why this happened? Why did it take Republican politicians many months, until just now, to take this seriously? It is very, very serious and yet much of the country has been asleep at the wheel.

I plead with every American of every stripe to demand information and evidence about why Russia’s goal was to help Donald Trump get elected and hurt Hillary Clinton. We must demand an investigation into Mr. Trump’s bizarre alignment with Vladimir Putin. If this has been investigated by our intelligence agencies, we as American citizens must see the information they have discovered.

Have Mr. Trump’s relentless abhorrent words, deeds and Twitter inanities so deeply distracted us that we have forgotten who we are?

MARYELLEN LINNEHAN

Chappaqua, N.Y.

To the Editor:

It appears as though President-elect Donald Trump is on a collision course with two powerful and politically savvy members of the Republican Party, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. During the campaign Mr. Trump said that Mr. McCain was “not a war hero,” and he publicly released Mr. Graham’s cellphone number. Now these two senators are calling for a thorough investigation into the possibility that Russian hacking interfered with an American election.

So far Mr. Trump’s response has been that of the police officer trying to discourage public attention: “Nothing to see here, folks. Just move along.” He claims that sooner or later he’ll find the time to get a complete briefing from the intelligence community, so that he can learn the truth. But until that time don’t worry, because he’s working on the real big things that confront our great nation. Plus the Russian hacking is so yesterday’s news.

My guess is that Senators McCain and Graham have already found the time to talk to the right people in the intelligence community, and they already know the truth about the Russian hacking, and the truth is not good.

NEIL J. BLUM

Glenview, Ill.


Russia-US row: Trump praises Putin amid hacking expulsions

Mr Trump tweeted: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"

Mr Putin had earlier said Russia would not stoop to "irresponsible diplomacy".

Washington expelled 35 diplomats over hacking related to the US election. Moscow denies any involvement.

Mr Trump emphasised his statement on the row by pinning his tweet to the top of his account.

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to with the term "delay".
  • Diplomatic spat goes undiplomatic
  • 18 revelations from Wikileaks' hacked Clinton emails
  • Can the hack be traced to Russia?

He has previously dismissed the hacking claims as "ridiculous" and said that Americans should "get on with our lives" when asked about the possibility of sanctions.

However, speaking before Mr Putin's decision, Mr Trump did say he would meet US intelligence chiefs next week to be "updated on the facts of this situation".

His senior aide Kellyanne Conway said on Thursday: "Even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote 'box in' President-elect Trump.
"That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can't help but think that's often true."

Stolen emails

Under the US action:
  • Thirty-five diplomats from Russia's Washington embassy and its consulate in San Francisco were given 72 hours to leave the US with their families
  • Two properties said to have been used by Russian intelligence services in New York and Maryland were closed
  • Sanctions were announced against nine entities and individuals including two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB

Barack Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on 20 January, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Emails stolen from her campaign manager and from the servers of the Democratic National Committee - some containing embarrassing information for Democrats - were released during the election campaign.

In a statement on the Kremlin website (in Russian), Mr Putin said: "We won't be expelling anyone.

"We won't be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays.

Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin."

Standing alone? BBC's Laura Bicker in Washington

The contrast between the words of the president and those of the president-elect could not be more stark.

Siding with a foreign adversary instead of the sitting president is a dramatic departure from normal diplomatic practice during this transition phase.
And Donald Trump may find himself alone in his admiration. President Obama has broad bipartisan support for his actions and a full hearing to discuss the hacking allegations has been scheduled in Congress next week.
The Russian president wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Mr Trump and "the whole American people".

Mr Putin's comments rebuffed his foreign ministry which had reportedly suggested expelling 31 US diplomats from Moscow and four from St Petersburg.

It also suggested banning US diplomats from their dachas (holiday homes) in Serebryany Bor near Moscow and a warehouse on Moscow's Dorozhnaya Street.

There has been no response yet to Mr Putin's move from the Obama administration.

One Congressman, Texan Republican Will Hurd, warned about the Russian leader's trustworthiness.

"When it comes to Vladimir Putin you can't always truly believe what he says. You need to watch what he actually does," he said.

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