President Barack Obama, he said, had “an obligation to go out to the country and give a warning” about Russian interference in the election “based on the input that was carefully, carefully vetted by the intelligence community and presented to everybody” in the Situation Room.
“And he did so. Back in October, the president authorized the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, together, to make a very clear statement to this nation, to our nation,” he told reporters Thursday. “And they said unequivocally that they assessed with high confidence — it’s what we said in October — with high confidence that the Russian government directed compromises of emails from U.S. institutions, including political organizations, and that these thefts and disclosures were intended to interfere with our election process.”
His comments follow reports that Putin himself directed how the hacks were used during the campaigns, a charge the Kremlin has denied, with Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the charge “laughable nonsense.”
President-elect Donald Trump has continued to cast doubt over whether Russia was actually the culprit. Trump and his transition team have suggested that reports from intelligence sources are part of a politicized effort to delegitimize his election.
“If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
Kerry maintained that Obama “made clear” in October that Russia’s meddling was a serious issue.
“It was a serious matter then. It’s a serious matter now, as even more information comes out,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on it further, except to say that people need to remember that the president issued a warning, but he had to be obviously sensitive to not being viewed as interfering on behalf of a candidate or against a candidate or in a way that promoted unrealistic assessments about what was happening. I think the president did that, and now we have to get out the facts, and I’m confident we will in the months ahead.”