President Barack Obama ordered the removal of 35 Russian intelligence officials from the U.S. on Thursday in response to interference by the country in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
The White House also announced an executive order sanctioning nine Russian entities and individuals, including “the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”
The president has also ordered the State Department to shut down two Russian intelligence-gathering compounds in Maryland and New York.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” the statement continued, calling on U.S. allies to “work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior.”
The White House also promised to release a report to Congress “in the coming days” briefing legislators on Russia’s efforts to interfere with November’s and prior elections.
Obama previously vowed to retaliate against Russia for interfering the election in what U.S. intelligence agencies characterized as an attempt to help Donald Trump win the White House.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections, that we need to take action. And we will,” Obama promised in an interview with NPR earlier this month.
The announcement follows a meeting between CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, where all three agreed that the Russian government used hacking to disrupt the U.S. Presidential election in part to aid Donald Trump.
President-elect Donald Trump, for his part, has dismissed the idea that Russian hacking had any role in the outcome of the election.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace earlier this month. “I don’t believe it. I don’t know why and I think it’s just, you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College … No I don’t believe that at all.”
Read the president’s full statement below:
Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election. 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.
All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences. Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.
I have issued an executive order that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners. Using this new authority, I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information. The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes, and is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity, to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.
These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. 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. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.