Obama defends decision to order probe of alleged Russia hacking

CBS News has learned the U.S. is likely to impose sanctions on the leaders of Russia’s largest intelligence agency.

A senior administration official said the U.S. has “high confidence” that Russia’s main intelligence directorate conducted cyberattacks to try and help elect Donald Trump. Congressional leaders from both parties support an investigation of the hacking. Both Republicans and Democrats are also defending the CIA from public attacks by the president-elect.

Mr. Trump has so far denied any Russian involvement in the campaign hacking. But President Obama appeared on late night television Monday night, defending his decision to launch an investigation before the end of the term, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.

President Obama explained on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” why he asked for a review before leaving office.

“The reason that I called for a review is really to just gather all the threads of the investigations the intelligence work that has been done...” the president said. 


 
The U.S. is confident that the cyberattacks were conducted by Russia’s GRU military intelligence arm and stole private emails, opposition research and campaign information from the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Damaging information on the Democrats was then leaked to WikiLeaks and other sites.

Even after being exposed, the hackers didn’t stop.
 
“This is pretty bold; this is pretty brazen in a lot of ways,” Pegues said.

“It’s very Russian,” said Adam Meyers, who works for CrowdStrike – the cybersecurity firm that investigated the hack and works closely with U.S. intelligence.
 
“The actions definitely were more detrimental to one candidate than the other,” Meyers said.

“More detrimental to Hillary Clinton?” Pegues asked.

“Yeah,” Meyers said.

Meyers said the Russians have used information warfare to influence elections before by leaking embarrassing or sensitive documents -- most notably during the 2014 elections in Ukraine. The strategy is part of what some believe is a Russian playbook to sow confusion and uncertainty.
 
On Capitol Hill, there is a groundswell of bipartisan support for a probe into the report.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, is calling for sanctions.
 
“We ought to have a joint investigation, House and Senate Intelligence Committees, to look into this,” Schiff told MSNBC.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cast Russia as a foe.
 
“The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell said. “I think we ought to approach all of these issues on the assumption that the Russians do not wish us well.”