Trump continues to reject the US intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow is to blame
Democratic lawmakers predicted House Republicans would support their probe effort
Lawmakers in Congress intensified their calls Wednesday for a probe into hacking during the 2016 election, raising chances of a clash with President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump continues to reject the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow is to blame, telling Time Magazine that he does not believe the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was behind the hacks.
House Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday that would convene a bipartisan, independent commission to look into alleged Russian attempts to interfere and sow distrust in this year’s voting.
On the Senate side, a senior Republican told CNN that he will be directing his committees “to look deeply into what Russia may have done in regarding our election.”
The congressional moves come as Time published an interview with Trump in which he dismissed the intelligence community’s October assessment that it had high confidence that Russia was behind hacks. They largely targeted Democrats, including the Democratic National Committee.
“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump is quoted as saying.
The President-elect then implied that the intelligence community lied, indicating to Time that the conclusion was politically driven.
The statements could raise new questions about Trump’s ties to and continued affinity for Moscow, despite widespread concern in national security circles about Russia’s alleged hacking and the geopolitical tensions it is creating. It will almost certainly strain his relationship with the intelligence agencies he will have to rely on as president on to make national security decisions.
In the immediate term, the President-elect’s comments drew fierce rebukes from lawmakers.
“He is denying that the sun sets in the West,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of two House Democrats who introduced the legislation for a commission, rejecting the notion that the intelligence assessment was politically motivated.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, the legislation’s co-sponsor and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said “experts agree that there is overwhelming evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. Overwhelming,” Cummings said. “It is not disputed, it’s overwhelming.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, meanwhile, told CNN that he believes Russia “did interfere with our elections.”
Graham will be pursuing his own investigations into the hacking in his side of Congress, he told CNN.
According to Trump’s transition team, he has attended some four briefings from intelligence agencies since the election.
Trump’s refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of all 17 US federal intelligence agencies, “people who are sworn to protect us and to provide the very best information” to the President “is troubling,” Cummings said.
The “Protecting Our Democracy Act” that Swalwell and Cummings introduced Wednesday calls for the creation of a 12-member, bipartisan, 18-month investigation into Russian hacking. It would operate with an initial budget of $3 million, have members from both parties and chambers of Congress, and issue a report at its conclusion recommending future security protections.
Both lawmakers predicted House Republicans would support their effort. Cummings mentioned Senate Republicans who have already spoken out against Russian hacking, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has warned that Republicans could easily be the next target, as well as Graham.
The South Carolina Republican told CNN that he thinks “Trump should take a real tough tone with Russia, I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage.”
“It’s pretty clear to me that Wikileaks was designed to hurt (Democratic presidential nominee Hillary) Clinton and it could be us tomorrow,” Graham said, referring to published emails stolen from her campaign chairman and posted on the site.
“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” Graham said. Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he added, “I want Putin personally to pay a price.”