In our news wrap Thursday, President Obama announced a range of actions meant to punish Russia for election meddling, including sanctions on Russian intelligence services and top officials in the unit that ordered the hacks. Also, Iraqi security forces launched the second phase of their offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group.
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The White House has stated that Russian hackers tried to sway the U.S. presidential race. And now it's laid out the punishment, targeting key leaders and agencies in Moscow. The word came from Hawaii, where the president is vacationing.
The Kremlin had been waiting and watching. Today, the White House ended the waiting. President Obama announced a range of retaliation for election meddling that the U.S. blames on top levels of the Russian government. It includes sanctions on Russian intelligence services and on top officials in the unit that ordered the hacks, and expulsions of 35 Russian diplomats within 72 hours.
Both the CIA and the FBI have concluded that Russia hacked Democratic groups and the e-mails of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Obama called today's retaliation — quote — "a necessary and appropriate response, not just to the hacking, but to aggressive harassment of U.S. officials in Moscow." He also said the U.S. may take other actions at a time and place of its choosing, some of which will not be publicized.
President-elect Trump has played down the hacking, as he did again last night.
DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.
Moscow today dismissed the U.S. announcement. A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said he regrets the move and will consider countermeasures of his own.
In the meantime, a U.S. government report detailing Russian meddling in American elections is due out in the coming days. Several top Republicans in Congress said the president's sanctions are overdue. They plan to push for tougher action. We will hear from the top homeland security official at the White House after the news summary.
The U.S. had no role in the day's second major development, but Russia did. It was the announcement of a nationwide cease-fire in Syria. The truce officially took effect at midnight local time, and most rebel groups signaled they'd accept it. A full report later in the program.
In the day's other news: Iraqi security forces launched the second phase of their offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group. The new assault focused on several eastern neighborhoods in the country's second largest city. Smoke could be seen rising above the skyline as elite special forces and army troops fought their way deeper into the city. It's the last major stronghold for ISIS in Iraq.
Russia's military says flight recorders show no evidence of an explosion on a transport plane that crashed in the Black Sea. But as workers pulled out more wreckage today, a Russian general in Moscow said investigators have not ruled out a terrorist act.
LT. GEN. SERGEI BAINETOV (through translator):
Other than an explosion on board, there could have been some mechanical impact. A terror attack doesn't always involve an explosion. The flight was quite normal, but one of the pilots' sentences and an analysis of it tell us about the beginning of a special situation, about the beginning of it developing and nothing else yet.
The general offered no detail on what that special situation involved. Earlier in the week, the main Russian intelligence agency had dismissed terrorism as a possible cause. The crash killed all 92 people on board.
In Germany, officials have released a man they detained yesterday in last week's Berlin truck attack. Prosecutors had said his phone number was found in the phone of the attack's main suspect, Anis Amri. He was killed last week in Italy. Today, authorities said the man wasn't in contact with Amri after all.
Back in this country, Wall Street struggled again. The Dow Jones industrial average was down about 14 points to close below 19820. The Nasdaq fell six points, and the S&P 500 lost a fraction.
And the death of actress Debbie Reynolds left generations of fans stunned today. News of her passing came last night, just 24 hours after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, had died.