The Obama administration had definitive proof last August that Russian Federation was meddling in the presidential election - but became so mired in secret debates over a response it only ended up expelling 35 diplomats and closing two compounds in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Friday. John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ariz.), who supports tougher sanctions Russia, said in a statement Friday that the administration "abjectly failed to deter Russian aggression" and "failed to impose any meaningful costs on Russia". In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates.
"Our primary interest in August, September and October was to prevent them from doing the max they could do", a senior administration official told the Post "We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures".
While the Russians would have been expected to destroy intelligence and equipment before leaving the country, the revelation raises the significance of the compounds in connection with Russia's election-interference operations.
The Post's report was based on interviews with "more than three dozen current and former USA officials in senior positions in government" - and most of whom "agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue".
US President Donald Trump has consistently called allegations of Russian hacking "fake news". Only Obama and three senior aides were permitted to see it.
Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin's direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.
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Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told The New York Times, adding that "people get buy-in along the way and understand what's going on". Senators could vote on their version of the healthcare plan next week before their summer recess begins.
Other former officials are less confident that Obama went far enough in his response. The Post says the Central Intelligence Agency package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read and meetings in the situation room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden to avoid leaks.
In August, the Department of Homeland Security appealed to state election leaders to help them better protect their systems. As a result, the expulsions and modest sanctions announced by Obama on December 29 continue to stand as the United States' most forceful response.
One constant factor in discussions over how to respond was a belief that Mrs Clinton would win the presidency and there would be time to confront the Russians more directly after the election.
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 United States find itself "in an escalating exchange with Moscow" as a result of their interference in the 2016 election. They believe that a series of warnings - including one that Obama delivered to Putin in September - prompted Moscow to abandon any plans of further aggression, such as sabotage of USA voting systems.
The White House, the CIA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment for the report.
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