Former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Sunday defended the Obama administration's response to suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election, rebuffing the continued criticism former President Barack Obama has sustained on the issue.
"We took a series of painstaking steps, including the President directly confronting President Putin," McDonough said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
McDonough said in addition to Obama confronting Putin about the attempts to interfere in the election, the administration pressed Congress on the issue and released a statement from the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence ahead of the election pointing to Russia's ongoing efforts to sow discord.
"We did exactly what we think we needed to do," McDonough said.
McDonough claimed that Obama's discussion with Putin may have prevented further Russian actions, including attempts to affect the sanctity of the elections.
Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted several Russians last month on charges related to allegations they spread misinformation online in a campaign that began well ahead of the general election.
McDonough's defense of the former administration's actions in response to intelligence pointing to a Russian operation to skew the presidential election came in response to criticism that Obama could have done more to counter the effort.
President Donald Trump tweeted last month that Obama did not act in the face of Russian meddling, and Obama has faced criticism within his own party for his handling of the issue. California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said last year that Obama should have sounded the alarm to a greater extent.
McDonough said given the information they had at the time, they "made a series of very important and very good decisions," and he rejected the claim from a former administration official in a Washington Post article last year that they "sort of choked."
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