U.S. President Barack Obama gave his last press briefing and answered questions from reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C. (Cheriss May/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS)

Obama slaps Russia with sanctions for meddling in the US election

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama slapped Russia with new penalties Thursday in retaliation for meddling in the U.S. presidential election, targeting five people and four Russian organizations the administration says were involved.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said in a statement. “Such activities have consequences.”

The penalties were aimed at punishing officials in the government of President Vladimir Putin, among them agents linked to email hacks of top Hillary Clinton campaign officials and the Democratic National Committee.

They included sanctions of two of Russia’s intelligence agencies and three companies the U.S. said provided support. Additionally, 35 Russian officials in the U.S. were ordered to leave within three days and access was cut off starting Friday to two Russian government-owned compounds, one in New York and one in Maryland.

The hackers leaked emails revealing campaign-related correspondence of senior Clinton adviser John Podesta and other Democratic operatives, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded.

Clinton has blamed Putin himself and told supporters that he went after her because of a “personal beef” against her. President-elect Donald Trump has dismissed the idea that Putin was involved or that the leaks affected the outcome of the election.

Obama has all but blamed Putin personally, telling reporters before Christmas that very little happens in the Russian government without Putin’s knowledge.

The interference in the American election calls for retaliation, administration officials say. Obama has said that he would make some of the penalties known publicly, but that his administration would launch other retribution that it won’t discuss.

Thursday’s announcement came while Obama is vacation with his family in his childhood home of Hawaii.

The retaliation is certain to exacerbate tensions with Russia during the transition from the Obama presidency to the Trump presidency. Trump has suggested that he plans to let the matter rest.

“We ought to get on with our lives,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.

Trump has rejected conclusions from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that the Russian government was behind the hacks of computer systems and emails belonging to Democratic Party officials.

The Obama administration should produce more evidence about the hacking, Sean Spicer, Trump’s incoming White House press secretary, told reporters earlier Thursday.

“If the United States has clear proof of anyone interfering with our elections, we should make that known,” Spicer said. “Right now we need to see further facts,” he said.

Spicer suggested accusations about Russia’s influence on the presidential election are politically motivated to undercut Trump’s mandate.

“You have a lot of folks on the left who continue to undermine the legitimacy of his win and the nature of how big that win was, and that is unfortunate,” Spicer said.

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