Despite being given a dossier containing evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directly ordered the cyber campaign, Obama decided not to punish the Kremlin because he did not want the appearance of tilting the election and believed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would ultimately win.
The Post reports before Obama's presidency ended, he approved a previously covert measure to authorise planting cyberweapons in Russia's infrastructure to set off should the U.S. find itself "in an escalating exchange with Moscow" as a result of their interference in the 2016 election.
In August, CIA Director John Brennan first alerted the White House of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the USA presidential race", according to the report.
The Post report details how the CIA's assessment that Putin was directly involved in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the USA presidential election in an effort to help Trump prompted the Obama administration to debate dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russian Federation.
"I feel like we sort of choked", he declared.
The implants, developed by the National Security Agency (NSA), are created to hit Russian networks deemed "important to the adversary and that would cause them pain and discomfort if they were disrupted", a former USA official told the Post.
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They included "cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could "crater" the Russian economy", the Post reported.
But President Barack Obama ultimately approved only modest measures: the expulsion of a few dozen diplomats, the closure of two Russian compounds, and narrowly targeted economic sanctions that some who designed them described as largely symbolic, the Post said.
The Kremlin has voiced regret about the new USA sanctions against Russian Federation and warned of possible retaliation.
"[Friday]'s Washington Post story provides shocking new detail of what many of us have asserted all along: that the Obama administration abjectly failed to deter Russian aggression, including Vladimir Putin's ultimate attack on our interests and values - the active, purposeful effort to undermine the integrity of American democracy and shift the outcome of last year's election", McCain said in a statement. "Importantly, we did that". And on July 22, almost 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.
In the months that followed the August CIA report, 17 intelligence agencies confirmed with high confidence the Russian interference. "Why didn't they stop them?" Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dismissed the intelligence and said he would not support the Obama administration's assertion that Putin was trying to subvert the election. "But it didn't happen", a senior Department of State official lamented to The New York Times in December.
The cyber operation is still in its early stages and involves deploying "implants" in Russian networks deemed "important to the adversary and that would cause them pain and discomfort if they were disrupted", a former USA official said.