Obama Warns of 'Accelerating' Threat of Foreign Governments Interfering With 'Democratic Practices'

He also warned against letting partisan divides undermine U.S. intelligence.

ByABC News
January 8, 2017, 10:15 AM

— -- After the release of the intelligence community’s declassified report about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, President Obama told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the Russians "intended to meddle."

“I think that what is true is that the Russians intended to meddle and they meddled,” President Obama told George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview that will air on "This Week" Sunday.

The President also warned against letting partisan divides undermine U.S. intelligence.

“I’ll be honest with you, George, one of the things I am concerned about is the degree to which we’ve seen a lot of commentary lately where there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats. That cannot be,” Obama said.

Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on U.S. intelligence on Russian hacking and today, even after being briefed on the matter, insisted any cyberattack had "absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election."

The president warned of the threat to future elections if the United States doesn’t address the issue of cybersecurity.

“You have I think the clear example of how, if we're not vigilant, foreign countries can have an impact on the political debate in the United States in ways that might not have been true 10, 20, 30 years ago, in part because of the way news is transmitted and in part because so many people are skeptical of mainstream news organizations that everything's true and everything's false. You know, nothing is settled. Everything is contested,” the president said.

Obama said he had an additional piece of advice for the president-elect.

“One of the things that I've urged the president-elect to do is to develop a strong working relationship with the intelligence community,” Obama said. “I think it's important that Congress, on a bipartisan basis, work with the next administration, looking forward to make sure that this kind of influence is minimized.”

“We have to remind ourselves we’re on the same team. Vladimir Putin’s not on our team," Obama added.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if he underestimated Putin, Obama said he doesn't think he did.

"I don't think I underestimated him, but I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyberhacking and so forth to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating," he said.

"There are going to be elections coming up among our NATO allies that we have to pay attention to," the president said. "I anticipate that this kind of thing can happen again here. And so in addition to the report assessing what exactly happened, what we have also done is to make sure that the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence teams are working with the various folks who run our elections."

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