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President Obama issued new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, calling Russia’s “malicious cyber-related activities” a “national emergency” aimed at undermining “democratic processes.”
He also ordered that 35 Russian diplomats be ejected from the United States and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to “Russian harrassment of American diplomats” in Moscow.
The diplomats will be given 72 hours to leave the US, according to Reuters.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said in a statement, noting that Russia’s “data theft and disclosure activities could only havebeen directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”
Obama had reportedly been weighing how to retaliate against Russia for its cyberattacks on prominent Democrats and Democratic organizations throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
The announcement comes just over two months after the US intelligence community first accused the Russian government of orchestrating a series of cyberattacks on US citizens and political organizations, stating that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
“The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement at the time.
The CIA, meanwhile, waited until after the election to put forward an independent assessment of Russian meddling, the content of which was leaked to the press earlier this month via high-level officials briefed on the intelligence.
In it, the CIA said the Russians had been working toward a specific goal when they hacked into the inboxes of Democratic National Committee staffers and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta: “to help get Trump elected.”
The CIA report said the Russians had also breached the Republican National Committee but chose not to release any of the information, lending credence to the idea that the Kremlin made a specific and targeted effort to embarrass Democrats.
This summer, the leak of internal Democratic National Committee email correspondences revealing a bias against Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — by WikiLeaks, an organization founded by Julian Assange — divided the American left and led to the resignation of the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
President Barack Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full review into the Russian hacking campaign, and how it may have affected the presidential election, soon after the CIA report was leaked.