White House supports claim Putin directed US election hack

The White House has suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in a hacking operation aimed at interfering with the US election.Ben Rhodes, adviser to President Barack Obama, said that Mr Putin maintains tight control on government operations, which suggests that he was aware.White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest added that it was "pretty obvious" that Mr Putin was involved.Officials in Russia have repeatedly denied hacking accusations."Everything we know about how Russia operates and how Putin controls that government would suggest that, again, when you're talking about a significant cyber intrusion like this, we're talking about the highest levels of government," Mr Rhodes said."And ultimately, Vladimir Putin is the official responsible for the actions of the Russian government."The Kremlin on Thursday bristled at claims that Mr Putin orchestrated the data breach with the hopes of influencing the US election outcome.Democrats have struggled to grasp why Hillary Clinton lost. Could it be the spread of "fake news"? A poor Democratic ground game in Midwestern states? FBI Director James Comey's last-minute letter to Congress about new Clinton emails?Anything but acknowledge that Donald Trump turned out to be the more effective candidate with a more appealing message (at least in the states that mattered).Russian government hackers are the latest culprit - or scapegoat, depending on one's perspective. They're a tempting target, however, given the latest accounts of intrigue from intelligence community sources. A wily Vladimir Putin overseeing damaging leaks makes for a deliciously villainous plot.Of course those campaign emails, while certainly an annoyance to Democrats, likely weren't enough to tilt the election. But that doesn't mean these revelations won't be a headache for a president-elect who bristles when challenged.Now he's feuding with his own intelligence services and lashing out on Twitter, virtually guaranteeing more leaks. A congressional investigation seems likely. There's even talk of a Russian sanctions bill ending up on President Trump's desk.Mrs Clinton's loss still stings, but for forlorn Democrats seeing Mr Trump squirm would be a salve for open wounds.