Allegations that Russia interfered in the presidential election in a bid to boost Donald Trump’s campaign have roiled Republicans, as prominent GOP lawmakers pursue a bipartisan congressional investigation while President-elect Trump’s team tries to tamp down the controversy and “move on.”
Trump told “Fox News Sunday” the CIA’s reported assessment was “ridiculous” and described the claim as another “excuse” pushed by Democrats to explain his upset victory.
“Nobody really knows,” he said. “… They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”
He continued to push back Monday morning on Twitter:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., though, said Monday that the Senate intelligence committee will review the matter.
“The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell said, while saying he has the highest confidence in the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community.
The debate follows a Washington Post report that the CIA concluded in a secret assessment that Russia interfered in the race to boost Trump, not just undermine confidence in the system.
Intelligence agencies reportedly found individuals connected to the Russian government gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, as well as from Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta – though did not have “specific intelligence” showing Kremlin officials directed the activity.
In response to this report, and following White House confirmation that President Obama has ordered an intelligence review of election hacking before he leaves office, the Trump transition team also put out a statement saying: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Key Republican and Democratic senators, though, want to pursue the claims.
Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham joined Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed in calling Sunday for a congressional investigation.
“While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society. Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks,” they said in a statement. “This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”