At the end of the day, everything in Washington, D.C., comes back to one thing — politics.
That certainly seems to be the case with President Barack Obama's administration, which reportedly delayed retaliation against Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election because Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was expected to win.
"They thought she was going to win, so they were willing to kick the can down the road," a U.S. official familiar with the Russian hacking issue told NBC News Thursday.
That plan didn't work out.
President-elect Donald Trump, for his part, criticized Obama for now — weeks after the election — promising to "take action" against Russia "at a time and place of our own choosing," a move he suggests was inspired for political reasons.
If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1481811869.0
And Trump is not the only one to criticize the weak response from the Obama White House.
"I think it is a legitimate question, and I think given the stakes at the national level the question deserves an answer," retired Adm. James Stavridis told NBC of the president's wishy-washy approach to Russia during the election. "In retrospect, it certainly seems as though it was a mistake not to call the Russians sooner and respond to them in a very forceful way."
Over the weekend, a secret CIA report leaked suggesting that Russia did, in fact, interfere in the U.S. election — an analysis Trump swiftly deemed "ridiculous."
It is important to note, however, that, though the White House failed to take any substantial action against Russia despite knowledge of the hack, Obama did confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about the issue at the G-20 summit in China, telling the leader he would face unspecified consequences if the interference continued.
In addition, on Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement warning of the Russian hacks. The U.S. officials said the interference, intended to undermine the integrity of the electoral system, could have been carried out only with approval from "Russia's senior most" leaders.
Clinton's campaign also raised concerns about the specter of a Russian hack. Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, said in July that it was "troubling" to learn that Russia may have been responsible for the hacks into the Democratic National Committee.