Deborah Porter, Foreign Policy Contributor
Finally, after years of inaction, the White House released statements saying that further sanctions on Russia and top officials have been implemented, and 35 Russian officials from the San Francisco consulate and Washington embassy have been ordered to leave within 72 hours. It should come as no surprise that once Russia was willing to attack the DNC, the Obama administration was willing to respond. Russia claims that the DNC hack is falsely attributed to them. However, top politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Speaker Paul Ryan, have supported the final action by our sitting president. Our President-elect, Donald Trump, has yet to respond.
Russian diplomats or intelligence operatives?
Upon perusal of news stories, it is apparent that the 35 individuals are supposed to be at the Russian consulate and embassy, but their real location may be unknown. Fox News and the New York Times called them intelligence operatives, while the Washington Post and other sites called them diplomats. This calls to question the actual duties of these individuals, since the White House simply referred to them as “government officials” in their statements.
Legality of Executive Action
According to Obama’s executive action in 2015 granting him authority to respond to overseas attacks, he did not have the authority to respond to the DNC attacks, as it interfered with the elections rather than foreign affairs or financial instability, among other things. In order to have the ability to respond, Obama had to mend the 2015 executive order, adding a point E, as shown in the executive action he took today. It would not be surprising to see this executive action, along with others, being grouped with the illegal executive actions in the next administration, thus allowing the actions today to be removed through a formality.
A few days ago, in response to the expected sanctions, Russian officials released a statement that blamed President Obama for spreading lies about Russian hackers in order to sway the popular opinion against Russia. However, a joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security statement coinciding with the newly placed sanctions indicate that this is not the case.
Top US officials’ responses
Most notably, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, has stated support of Obama’s actions, albeit long overdue. However, top Republicans in the Senate like Lindsey Graham and John McCain have also come out in support of Obama’s sanctions. Additionally, the incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has clearly indicated support for Obama’s attack against Russia. At this time, the president-elect has not put forth a statement, but his friendly relations with Russia will likely encourage him to wait until official documentation and evidence has been produced by the Obama administration. His most recent comment indicates that he believes America must move on from the election.
As we enter the New Year, we will anxiously await Donald Trump’s and Russia’s responses. Are Obama’s executive actions against Russia too long overdue? Will Russia retaliate with the support of the international community? With the New Year comes new expectations, and hopefully our new president and his administration will be able to handle whatever comes of Obama’s late actions.
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