U.S. unveils plans to punish Russia for election hack

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WASHINGTON (NBC) -- The Obama administration has imposed sanctions against Russia's intelligence apparatus — including the expulsion of 35 diplomats — in retaliation for the alleged orchestration of hacking attacks designed to interfere in the presidential election.

The actions, outlined in an executive order announced by the Treasury Department on Thursday afternoon, also include:

Shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes
Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services GRU and FSB, high-ranking officers of the GRU, and three companies that allegedly provided support to the GRU's cyber operations.

"These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," President Obama said in a statement.

"All Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions."

There was no immediate response from Moscow. In anticipation of the announcement, Russia on Wednesday called the hacking allegations "misinformation" and "lies" and vowed to respond to any retribution.

"We can only add that if Washington takes new hostile steps, it will receive an answer," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

"This applies to any actions against Russian diplomatic missions in the United States, which will immediately backfire at U.S. diplomats in Russia. The Obama administration probably does not care at all about the future of bilateral relations, but history will hardly forgive it for this après-nous-le-deluge attitude."

As NBC News first reported two weeks ago, U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the alleged hacking campaign, and the CIA concluded the goal was to help elect Donald Trump by leaking emails that were embarrassing to Democrats.

Publicly, President Obama has blamed "the highest level" of the Russian government for the hacks, noting that "not much happens in Russia" without Putin giving the green light.

Trump has expressed doubt as to whether Russia tried to meddle in the election. Asked on Wednesday about possible sanctions against Russia in the wake of the cyber-attacks, the president-elect said, "I think we ought to get on with our lives."

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said this week that there is broad support for sanctions against Russian and even the Russian president.

"I predict there will be bipartisan sanctions coming that will hit Russia hard, particularly Putin as an individual," Graham told reporters in Riga, Latvia.

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied that his site was being used by the Russian government when it published emails stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

The Obama administration has indicated actions against Russia may go beyond the steps announced Thursday and include covert operations or cyber options.



 
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