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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, after an intelligence report describing Russian hacking of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, said he's surprised by the extent to which false information has been able to influence the nation's democratic processes.

But Obama said he did not misjudge Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I don't think I underestimated [Putin], but I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyber hacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems," Obama said Friday in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Obama said the ability of foreign countries to affect the U.S. political debate partly reflected the cynicism many people have toward mainstream news.

"In that kind of environment, where there's so much skepticism about information that's coming in, we're going to have to spend a lot more time thinking about how do we protect our democratic process," Obama added.

An unclassified version of the report directly tied Putin to election meddling and said Russia had a "clear preference" for eventual winner Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The report said the Russian government provided hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The website's founder, Julian Assange, has denied that it got the emails it released from the Russian government, though the report noted that the emails could have been passed through middlemen.

Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid "trolls" to make hostile comments on social media services, the report said. The type of interference that U.S. intelligence agencies linked to Putin has been going on for some time, and could happen again during elections in Europe this year, Obama said.

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"What is true is that the Russians intended to meddle, and they meddled," Obama said. "And it could be another country in the future."

There has been no official comment from Russia on the report, which was released as Russia observed Orthodox Christmas.

Reince Priebus, President-elect Trump's choice for White House chief of staff, criticized the timing of the report's release, saying on CBS' Face the Nation that it is "indisputable" that the rollout was "politically motivated to discredit" Trump.

But Priebus disputed the argument that Trump has rejected the report.

"He's not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular campaign," Priebus said.

Trump has expressed skepticism about Russia's role and declined to say whether any meddling by Russia was done on his behalf, but "I think he accepts the findings," Priebus said.

Pushback urged

Accepting the findings would be a positive step, but not enough, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is calling for more penalties against Russia.

"He's going to be the defender of the free world here pretty soon," Graham said of Trump. "All I'm asking him is to acknowledge that Russia interfered, and push back. It could be Iran next time. It could be China."

Graham said on NBC's Meet the Press that he and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., plan to introduce legislation for tougher sanctions against Russia, hitting the country in the financial and energy sectors "where they're the weakest."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted on Face the Nation that Trump has sought better relations with Russia, but Trump has also submitted Cabinet nominees who believe that the Russians "are not our friends, and are a big problem." Those include retired Gen. James Mattis, Trump's choice for secretary of defense; retired Gen. John Kelly, picked to head the Department of Homeland Security; Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., named to take over the Central Intelligence Agency; and former Sen. Daniel Coats, R-Ind., chosen as the director of national intelligence.

"I don't think it's all that unusual for a new president to want to get along with the Russians," McConnell said. "I remember George W. Bush having the same hope. My suspicion is these hopes will be dashed pretty quickly. The Russians are clearly a big adversary, and they demonstrated it by trying to mess around in our election."

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also called for a balanced response by the Trump administration that isn't reliant solely on the military.

"There has to be a response," he said.

Priebus and another Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, suggested Sunday that a decision on a response will be made at a later date.

Trump's approach to Russia is expected to be debated Wednesday at the confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, his choice for secretary of state, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Panel members have said they'll press Tillerson, the former chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, about his years of friendly business dealings with Putin.

While committee Chairman Bob Corker said Friday that Tillerson's views on Russia "are not in any way out of the mainstream," the Tennessee Republican added that Russia has done "very nefarious things."

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he understands why Trump would "want to be buddies" with Putin, saying it was no different than Obama, Bush and President Bill Clinton.

But Nunes, a member of Trump's transition team, said on Fox News Sunday that he has "cautioned this administration to be careful with Putin, because I think he is a bad actor. It is true we'd like to be friends with Russia, but I'm just not sure it's possible."

Obamacare future

Trump has tweeted that when he is president, "Russia will respect us far more than they do now and ... both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the world!"

In other recent tweets he has hinted he'd like to change decades of policy on nuclear weapons and said the United Nations was a "club for people to get together."

Obama said he warned Trump about the dangers posed by unfiltered use of social media after his inauguration on Jan. 20: "The day that he is the president of the United States, there are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he says, and in a way that's just not true before you're actually sworn in as president."

Obama said the warning came during a recent conversation with Trump, whom he termed "very engaging and gregarious."

The president also predicted that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, his signature health care law, would survive in some form.

"It may be called something else," he said of the law popularly called Obamacare. "I don't mind."

On health care and other initiatives, "my hope is that the president-elect, members of Congress from both parties look at where have we objectively made progress, where are things working better. Don't undo things just because I did them," he said.

Republicans have suggested it's a question of when, not if, the health care law will be repealed.

"There ought not to be a great gap" between repealing the measure -- the first steps toward which could happen as soon as this week -- and replacing it, McConnell said Sunday.

Priebus said Sunday that "it would be ideal" if repealing and replacing the law could be done "in one big action."

Looking back on the Democratic Party's losses during Obama's two terms in congressional and state legislative elections, the president said he takes "some responsibility."

"I couldn't be both chief organizer of the Democratic Party and function as commander-in-chief," Obama said. "We did not begin what I think needs to happen over the long haul, and that is, rebuild the Democratic Party at the ground level."

Information for this article was contributed by Ros Krasny and Nafeesa Syeed of Bloomberg News; by David Nakamura of The Washington Post; and by Laurie Kellman, Jill Colvin and Jim Heintz of The Associated Press.

A Section on 01/09/2017

Print Headline: Misjudged hackers' sway in election, Obama says


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Archived Comments

  • WGT
    January 9, 2017 at 6:27 a.m.

    It is sad to see conned citizens be so cavalier in dealing with Trump, this entity of disgrace.
    Trump,EOD. The good citizens will rise to this unfortunate wresting of the Office and replace with a sane person.

  • Libertarian
    January 9, 2017 at 8:03 a.m.

    Hillary has always had extremely high negatives with voters. She was NOT a viable candidate at any point. Trying to blame the leaks of Podesta's emails as the source of the Democrat's problems will just ensure a further erosion of their party. The Democrats are too far left, too urban-centric. And Hillary was not the right torch bearer for their party.

  • RobertBolt
    January 9, 2017 at 8:23 a.m.

    Do the trolls on this site reveal themselves as Putin's pro-Trump trolls through their obsessive use of Lenin's expression "useful idiots?" Possibly, but I suspect Putin's trolls would have much more intellectual substance if they hoped to sway a majority of voters. Our pro-Trump trolls were not particularly useful.

  • Skeptic1
    January 9, 2017 at 8:56 a.m.

    How come Obama wasn't concerned when faux news stories about Trump were planted all over Facebook. And, no one has said the contents of the emails were fake. Whoever leaked Hillary's emails and those of the DNC did the country a favor exposing the outrageous corruption and cynical disdain the Dems actually have for minorities. Hillary lost because she is the most corrupt person to ever run, the Russians didn't make her take millions in pay-for-play or put a private server in her house.

  • DontGoThere
    January 9, 2017 at 10:19 a.m.

    If I recall, when Obama got elected, there were accusations of voter fraud with Acorn. The Dems are just sore losers!

  • Packman
    January 9, 2017 at 10:58 a.m.

    Obama's statement is reprehensible and shows the depths he will stoop to attempt to diminish his successor. There is ZERO evidence any voting machine was hacked. There is ZERO evidence anyone voted for Trump solely on "fake" news. It's beyond irresponsible to say the "election" was hacked. Shame on you BH Obama. Shame. Shame. Shame. Jan 20 cannot get here soon enough.

  • 3WorldState1
    January 9, 2017 at 11:41 a.m.

    Then why did Kanye mention Wikileaks 164 times after the hacks? Why did he thank Wiki leaks so much? If it didn't help why did he go to it so much? Sounds like it might have helped him. You also can't disprove it didnt win him the election. With the FBI on top of that. Almost as bad as the Bush fiasco.
    When did the right become commies overnight? I suspected they might be, but now we know for sure. Can you imagine BO calling out individual businesses and threatening them? He would be called a commie is a second. And anti-business. Picking winners and losers. But now it is OK to do that? The right is all over the place.

  • drs01
    January 9, 2017 at 11:57 a.m.

    OBama continues to show why he's such a sore loser. At least Hillary is not pissing and moaning publicly; it's one of the FEW nice things I can say about her. But OBama? His presidency is a lesson is Misjudgement and shows what results when you elect an incompetent, unqualified, politically naive, racist, ego freak president. I haven't seen this much whining since watching NFL football. D backs complaining about pass interference calls. At least that whine is entertainment.

  • GrimReaper
    January 9, 2017 at 1:20 p.m.

    And again we see the standard Democrat drivel from the usual Democrat "useful idiots"!
    BTW, WGT, the "entity of disgrace" is leaving the Oval office in ten days, not entering it.........LMAO!!!
    htt ps:// m/media/CYUG25vWwAAhAeX.jpg

  • rubythecat96gmailcom
    January 9, 2017 at 3:16 p.m.

    you mean like Obama tried to influence Israel's election with our tax payer money ?