Obama Opens Probe of Foreign Influence on Election 2016

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Barack Obama has directed the country’s intelligence community to study the foreign influence on 2016 elections, a White House official said Friday.

Speaking at a breakfast with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor, homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said Obama expects the review to be finished before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.

“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process,” Monaco said, according to CNN. “It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders. This is consistent with the work that we did over the summer to engage Congress on the threats that we were seeing.”

The Obama administration has blamed Russia for hacks – including the wide leak of emails from top officials at the Democratic National Convention and those of Hillary Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta – that played a major role in the November election. The administration has publicly said Russia did this in an attempt to influence the presidential election.

“We may be crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what this means, what has happened and to impart those lessons learned,” Monaco said, according to Politico.

While the administration and Democrats have remained steadfast in their belief that Russia was behind the steady stream of Wikileaks releases that dominated the final weeks of the campaign, Trump has been skeptical.

“I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are – she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” Trump said during a presidential debate in October. “Maybe there is no hacking.”

The review will likely interest Democrats, as well as a handful of Republicans, in Congress, who have been vocal in calling for inquiries into the hacking allegations.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who serves as the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, praised the White House’s decision Friday.

Cummings this week introduced a bill to put in place an independent commission to conduct the same sort of review the Obama administration announced Friday.

“I strongly commend this critical step by the president to more fully assess Russia’s interference in our elections,” Cummings said in a statement. “Ideally, this report will inform our efforts here in Congress to conduct a robust, bipartisan investigation, allow all members of Congress to receive additional intelligence on this issue and hopefully result in the declassification of more information for the American people.”

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