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#Breaking POLITICO: "Obama team was warned in 2014 about Russian interference."

In 2014, the administration got a report of Russia’s intention to disrupt Western democracies, including the United States. By ALI WATKINS

Members of Barack Obama's administration have been left to wonder whether they could have done more in regard to Russia. | Brendan Smilowski/Getty Images

POLITICO:

The Obama administration received multiple warnings from national security officials between 2014 and 2016 that the Kremlin was ramping up its intelligence operations and building disinformation networks it could use to disrupt the U.S. political system, according to more than half a dozen current and former officials.

As early as 2014, the administration received a report that quoted a well-connected Russian source as saying that the Kremlin was building a disinformation arm that could be used to interfere in Western democracies. The report, according to an official familiar with it, included a quote from the Russian source telling U.S. officials in Moscow, "You have no idea how extensive these networks are in Europe ... and in the U.S., Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments and militaries in all of these places."

That report was circulated among the National Security Council, intelligence agencies and the State Department via secure email and cable in the spring of 2014 as part of a larger assessment of Russian intentions in Ukraine, the official said.

There was no explicit warning of a threat to U.S. elections, but the official said some diplomats and national security officials in Moscow felt the administration was too quick to dismiss the possibility that the Kremlin incursions could reach the United States.

“The Obama administration was nothing but proactive in responding to Russian aggression in all of its forms, especially as Moscow became more brazen with and following its military moves against Ukraine beginning in 2014,” Price said, citing sanctions and increased American support to NATO as evidence of the former administration’s seriousness.

But subsequent events — including Russia’s interference in the American election through hacks of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, among other intrusions identified by U.S. intelligence — have left many in the former administration wondering whether they could have done more.

“People have criticized us ... for not coming out more forcefully and saying it,” former CIA Director John Brennan said at the Aspen National Forum in July. “There was no playbook for this.”

On Oct. 7, 2016, about a month before the election, the administration revealed, through a statement from the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, that the U.S. government believed Russia was behind the hacks and was seeking to interfere with the election. The revelation, which many in the White House expected to be bombshell news, was largely overshadowed by the revelation that same day of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which Donald Trump made crude and sexist comments to anchor Billy Bush.

But others in the national security community say an overly cautious Obama White House could have done more both during the campaign and in the previous months and years to alert Russia that it was aware of its intentions to subvert the U.S. democracy — along with those of some other Western countries — and would retaliate forcefully at the first sign of Russian interference.

POLITICO spoke with more than a dozen current and former officials from across the national security spectrum, including intelligence agencies, the State Department and the Pentagon. Almost all said they were aware of Russia’s aggressive cyberespionage and disinformation campaigns — especially after the dramatic Russian attempt to hack Ukrainian elections in 2014 — but felt that either the White House or key agencies were unwilling to act forcefully to counter the Russian actions.

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