From President Obama's final press conference of 2016 on 17 December:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Martha Raddatz.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS: Mr. President, I want to talk about Vladimir Putin again. Just to be clear, do you believe Vladimir Putin himself authorized the hack? And do you believe he authorized that to help Donald Trump? And on the intelligence, one of the things Donald Trump cites is Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction, and that they were never found. Can you say, unequivocally, that this was not China, that this was not a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed, as Donald Trump says? And do these types of tweets and kinds of statements from Donald Trump embolden the Russians?
THE PRESIDENT: When the report comes out, before I leave office, that will have drawn together all the threads. And so I don’t want to step on their work ahead of time.
What I can tell you is that the intelligence that I have seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack.
RADDATZ: Which hack?
THE PRESIDENT: The hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta.
Now, the -- but again, I think this is exactly why I want the report out, so that everybody can review it. And this has been briefed, and the evidence in closed session has been provided on a bipartisan basis -- not just to me, it’s been provided to the leaders of the House and the Senate, and the chairman and ranking members of the relevant committees. And I think that what you’ve already seen is, at least some of the folks who have seen the evidence don’t dispute, I think, the basic assessment that the Russians carried this out.
RADDATZ: But specifically, can you not say that --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Martha, I think what I want to make sure of is that I give the intelligence community the chance to gather all the information. But I’d make a larger point, which is, not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is a pretty hierarchical operation. Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States.
We have said, and I will confirm, that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government. And I will let you make that determination as to whether there are high-level Russian officials who go off rogue and decide to tamper with the U.S. election process without Vladimir Putin knowing about it.
RADDATZ: So I wouldn’t be wrong in saying the President thinks Vladimir Putin authorized the hack?
THE PRESIDENT: Martha, I’ve given you what I’m going to give you.
What was your second question?
RADDATZ: Do the tweets and do the statements by Donald Trump embolden Russia?
THE PRESIDENT: As I said before, I think that the President-elect is still in transition mode from campaign to governance. I think he hasn’t gotten his whole team together yet. He still has campaign spokespersons sort of filling in and appearing on cable shows. And there’s just a whole different attitude and vibe when you’re not in power as when you’re in power.
So rather than me sort of characterize the appropriateness or inappropriateness of what he’s doing at the moment, I think what we have to see is how will the President-elect operate, and how will his team operate, when they’ve been fully briefed on all these issues, they have their hands on all the levers of government, and they’ve got to start making decisions.
One way I do believe that the President-elect can approach this that would be unifying is to say that we welcome a bipartisan, independent process that gives the American people an assurance not only that votes are counted properly, that the elections are fair and free, but that we have learned lessons about how Internet propaganda from foreign countries can be released into the political bloodstream and that we’ve got strategies to deal with it for the future.
The more this can be nonpartisan, the better served the American people are going to be, which is why I made the point earlier -- and I’m going to keep on repeating this point: Our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is. That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable.
If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect, because it doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to some of the other stuff that folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.
To the extent that our political dialogue is such where everything is under suspicion, everybody is corrupt and everybody is doing things for partisan reasons, and all of our institutions are full of malevolent actors -- if that’s the storyline that’s being put out there by whatever party is out of power, then when a foreign government introduces that same argument with facts that are made up, voters who have been listening to that stuff for years, who have been getting that stuff every day from talk radio or other venues, they’re going to believe it.
So if we want to really reduce foreign influence on our elections, then we better think about how to make sure that our political process, our political dialogue is stronger than it’s been.