KEY POINTS

  • The Biden administration has completed an intelligence review of Russia's alleged misdeeds
  • The administration could impose sanctions or single out people connected to Russian President Putin
  • A group of Russian hackers were found monitoring confidential emails in December

President Joe Biden could punish Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2020 presidential election and participating in a cybersecurity breach of an American IT company in December. 

The Biden administration has completed an intelligence review of Russia’s alleged misdeeds, which includes interference in the presidential election and involvement in the SolarWinds cyberattack.

The review sets the stage for possible sanctions against Russia, three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Wednesday. 

The U.S. will likely impose the sanctions or expel Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover, the sources said. Senior administration officials were expected to meet Wednesday to discuss taking possible action.

Another person familiar with the situation said the U.S. response might include singling out people with a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and agencies linked to the 2020 U.S. election interference. 

In December, a group of hackers believed to be working for Russia were found monitoring internal email traffic at the U.S. Treasury Department. The hackers are suspected to have gotten access to the agency by tampering with updates released by IT company SolarWinds, which has clients working in the government, two people familiar with the circumstances told Reuters.

The cyberspies allegedly used a trick called “supply chain attack” to hide malicious code in legitimate software, which would then be distributed to targeted agencies or companies by third parties. 

In late March, hackers involved in the SolarWinds breach were revealed to have gained access to the email accounts of top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and staff members of its cybersecurity unit, The Associated Press reported. 

On Feb. 23, the U.S. Senate summoned the chief executives of SolarWinds and other tech firms to a hearing over the breach. 

The review came weeks after Biden, in an interview with ABC News on March 17, said that Putin was a “killer” and that the Kremlin “will pay a price” for meddling in the elections. 

“He will pay a price,” Biden told “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos. “We had a long talk, he and I…know him relatively well. And the conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.'”

Joe Biden lifted vaccination optimism by bringing forward the date by which all adults in the United States should be eligible for a jab Joe Biden lifted vaccination optimism by bringing forward the date by which all adults in the United States should be eligible for a jab Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski