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Obama Expels 35 Diplomats, Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions Against Russia For Hacking


The Obama administration hit back against Russia today. It says Russia hacked into politically sensitive networks to help Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. For that, the U.S. is imposing new sanctions, expelling 35 Russians and closing two Russian compounds in the U.S. President Obama says all Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions.

President-elect Donald Trump responded. He said this. It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.


NPR's Jackie Northam is following these developments and joins us now. Hey, Jackie.


SHAPIRO: Give us more details about the Obama administration's actions today.

NORTHAM: Well, you know, it's a sweeping response. Not only is the U.S. targeting true Russian intelligence services and several of its operatives, it's also going after companies that provide material support for those services. These measures are for alleged Russian interference in the presidential election - you know, hacking the Democratic National Committee emails, among others, and that.

But beyond that, the administration says it's punishing Russia for stepping up harassment of U.S. diplomats in Russia. And that includes being physically assaulted and having diplomats' personal details divulged on Russian TV - that type of thing. And so the U.S. is also expelling three dozen Russias - Russians that it says are actually intelligence officials operating here in the U.S.

SHAPIRO: Now, President Obama has said for some time that the U.S. will retaliate in some way against Russia. And he's said that some of that retaliation may be Republicans, some may not. Is there any evidence that the U.S. may plan to stage cyberattacks against Russia in response to the hacks?

NORTHAM: Well, President Obama said in a statement that today's actions are not the sum total of the administration's response to Russia's actions and that the U.S. will continue to take a variety of measures at a time and place of its choosing. But Obama said some of that will not be publicized. So you run the risk of a tit for tat between the two nations. I just want to say, though, that U.S. officials said today that Russia has been engaged in a decades-long campaign of cyber-hacking and that there's no reason to believe it's going to change its ways. And, in fact, the Kremlin has already said that there would be appropriate retaliation for the sanctions.

SHAPIRO: Of course, President Obama is on his way out. President-elect Trump - on his way in, who's been much friendlier-sounding to Russia. Could he reverse these measures?

NORTHAM: These measures are part of an executive order by President Obama and can certainly be undone by when President-elect Trump takes office. But U.S. officials said that would present a direct threat to U.S. national security.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Jackie Northam, thank you.

NORTHAM: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, politics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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