Obama Finally Takes Action: Kicks 35 Russian Diplomats Out Of U.S. Over Election Tampering

The Obama Administration is finally taking action after Russia interfered in the presidential election. The White House has announced that 35 intelligence operatives are being ejected from the country. In addition, sanctions will be placed on Russia’s two leading intelligence services, including four top officers of the military intelligence unit.

On Thursday, Obama signed an executive order which grants the president the authority to impose travel bans and asset freezes on those who “tamper with, alter, or cause a misappropriation of information, with a purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.”

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The New York Times reports:

Mr. Obama used that order to immediately impose sanctions on four Russian intelligence officials: Igor Valentinovich Korobov, the current chief of a military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., and three deputies: Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov, the deputy chief of the G.R.U.; Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, a first deputy chief, and Vladimir Stepanovich Alekseyev, also a first deputy chief of the G.R.U…

…The administration also put sanctions on three companies and organizations that it said supported the hacking operations: the Special Technologies Center, a signals intelligence operation in St. Petersburg; a firm called Zor Security that is also known as Esage Lab; and the Autonomous Non-commercial Organization Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems, whose lengthy name, American officials said, was cover for a group that provided special training for the hacking.

It is unclear at the moment how much of an impact these measures will actually have. The move may end up being largely symbolic, but as the Times points out, “the actions would amount to the strongest American response ever taken to a state-sponsored cyberattack aimed at the United States.”

U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security, all agree that Russia was behind the DNC hacks and the subsequent slow release of damaging information obtained in those hacks during the presidential campaign. They have also concluded that Russia interfered with the election for one reason: to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Trump has blown off the findings of the U.S. intelligence community as “ridiculous.” Because the punishments Obama imposed today are an executive order, Trump will have the option of nixing the sanctions when he takes office next month. If he chooses to do so, it is likely that members of Congress, including Republicans, will be furious as they have been calling for an official investigation into the matter.

The White House is also planning to release a “joint analytic report” from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security which will give more insight into the information that has been gathered by the National Security Agency. The report is expected to be published before Obama leaves office in three weeks.


Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images