WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama imposed sanctions Thursday on nine Russian officials and intelligence services, as a penalty for Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts.
Russian authorities were already showing signs of retaliation late Thursday.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the State Department also has kicked out 35 Russian diplomats from its embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco, giving them and their families 72 hours to leave the U.S. The diplomats were declared persona non grata for acting in a “manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status.”
Two of the 35 names on the report are reportedly cybercriminals who have been protected by the Russian government. They allegedly stole $100 million from U.S. companies.
“What the president wanted today is to make sure that Russia knew we weren’t going to accept their interfering in our elections,” said Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz.
Obama also said starting Friday at noon, Russians will no longer have access to two Russian government-owned compounds in the United States — one in Maryland close to Washington, D.C., and another hidden behind fences and trees in Glen Cove, Long Island.
In the dark, the 106-year-old mansion looks like any other estate on Long Island’s Gold Coast. But it is, in fact, a Russian government facility and its occupants have been ordered to go.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said in part in a statement. “In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance.”
In an apparent retaliation, Russian authorities ordered the closure of the Anglo-American School of Moscow, where several children of U.S. Embassy personnel attend.
Also Thursday night, an order was issued to close access to a U.S. Embassy vacation house near Moscow.
Russian officials have denied the Obama administration’s accusation that the Russian government was trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.
But U.S. lawmakers indicated that they do not much care what Putin thinks.
“We believe – the three of us and most of our colleagues in the United States Senate – that Vladimir Putin and Russian behavior is unacceptable,” U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said at a news conference in Riga, Latvia with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI on Thursday released a joint report laying blame for election hacking at the feet of Russian intelligence officials.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia’s goal was to help Donald Trump win — an assessment Trump has dismissed as ridiculous.
The retaliation received immediate support from incoming U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said in part, “We need to punch back and punch back hard.”
Republicans in Congress promised to land some blows of their own.
“You can expect that the Congress will investigate the Russian involvement in our elections, and I predict there will be bipartisan sanctions coming that will hit Russia hard – particularly Putin as an individual,” Graham said in Riga.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told WCBS 880 he believes Obama did the right thing.
“I fully support the president. Quite frankly, I wish he had done this sooner – not just because of the election hacking, which I do believe the Russians were responsible for at least a good part of it – but this has really been going on for several years,” King noted, pointing out that Russia had committed cyberattacks against government agencies for some time previously.
King said he does not believe the Russian hacks decided or influenced the election, but he said that is beside the point.
“We can’t allow the Russians to be interfering in our elections. I don’t think it influenced the election, but the fact that they even tried – this was long before Donald Trump was even a candidate, or certainly a nominee that the Russians had gotten themselves involved, hacking into the Democratic National Committee,” he said.
King told CBS2 the penalties send a strong signal that “the United States will not tolerate any more of this hacking.”
A towering complex in the Riverdale section of the Bronx houses hundreds of Russian diplomatic workers and their families. Russian children played basketball at the complex Thursday afternoon.
But speaking through an intercom at the gate, a security officer at the Russian compound tersely said, “No comment” when asked about the sanctions.
A tweet from the Russian Embassy in the U.K. was caustic.
Trump released an official statement in response to the sanctions late Thursday.
“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in the statement. “Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week.”
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