Earnest Struggles to Answer How 'Effective' Obama's Response to Russian Hacking Has Been

December 15, 2016

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest struggled to answer a question Thursday on how effective the "proportional response" to Russian hacking was since the Obama administration will not make public what the punishment was, if one was imposed.

"Right, and that's the question," a reporter said at the White House daily press briefing. "How can it be effective if, in fact, we don't know whether it happened or not. Do the Russians–will the Russians know when it happened and that it happened?"

Earnest dodged the question, saying he is not in a position to discuss what President Obama chose to do.

"Listen, I'm just not going to be in the position to talk about potential responses," he said.

Earnest acknowledged that it was a frustrating answer.

"What I can tell you is that there may be an opportunity in the future where we can talk in more detail about what the response was, is, has been, or will be–" Earnest said before the reporter jumped back in.

"But, tell me how the response can be effective unless it's–if it's not made public," he said.

"Well, um," Earnest said, pausing for a few seconds. "That's a difficult question to answer."

Earnest said it is difficult because the "United States retains significant, extensive cyber capabilities that exceed the capabilities that are wielded by any other country in the world."

He said that if he were to detail the plans to the public, then that would compromise the effectiveness of the "proportional response."

"Unfortunately, that's not something I can discuss from here. But there are a range of proportional responses that the president and his team believe would be an appropriate response," Earnest added.