Worries about Russia’s involvement in the presidential election deepened Sunday, as a bipartisan group of senators urged Congress to put aside interparty fights to investigate the issue.
But doing so could be difficult.
President-elect Donald Trump again assailed Democrats over the issue on Sunday, saying it was ridiculous to think Russia interfered to help him get elected.
He charged in an interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday” that Democrats are looking for any excuse as to why they lost the White House.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” the president-elect said.
A secret CIA assessment uncovered by the Washington Post on Friday concluded that Russia intervened in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump win the White House.
Their call for an investigation said the recent cyberattacks “have cut to the heart of our free society.”
“For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyberattacks at America’s physical, economic and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions have been targeted,” the lawmakers said.
“Recent reports of Russian interference should alarm every American.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office noted that the Wisconsin Republican has said for months that “foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable.”
And in a statement, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said it’s important not to politicize the issue — though she did not comment directly on the latest information from the Post report.
“All year, the Intelligence Community, law enforcement, and state and local election officials have been working to ensure that this election was conducted consistent with our long history of free and fair elections,” she said.
“The speaker cannot comment on or characterize the content of classified briefings, but he rejects any politicization of intelligence matters.”
McCain, during an interview Sunday, echoed Ryan — saying the issue is too important to be made into a partisan matter.
“A fundamental of a democracy is a free and fair election,” the Arizona Republican said.
“I am confident that we can address this in a bipartisan fashion.”
According to the Washington Post, the intelligence agencies have identified various people who helped the Russian government leak hacked documents from Democratic sources, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton‘s campaign chairman, to WikiLeaks.
The New York Times also reported Friday that Russian actors hacked the Republican National Committee but chose not to release the information.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators told the Post. “That’s the consensus view.”
While lawmakers were seemingly united on the need to present a strong bipartisan response, the FBI and CIA gave lawmakers differing accounts on Russia’s motives, according to The Post.
Last week, during a meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, a senior FBI counterintelligence official gave remarks to lawmakers that were “fuzzy” and “ambiguous” in comparison to those made the CIA, the paper reported.
“The FBI briefers think in terms of criminal standards — can we prove this in court?” one of the officials said, according to The Post.
“The CIA briefers weigh the preponderance of intelligence and then make judgment calls to help policymakers make informed decisions. High confidence for them means, ‘We’re pretty damn sure.’ It doesn’t mean they can prove it in court.”
In the face of Congress’s united front, Trump and his top aides were quick to dismiss the report, and then doubled-down on Sunday.
Trump said there’s “great confusion” regarding the matter.
“They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.”
Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway charged there’s no evidence the Russians intervened specifically to help Trump become president.
“The president-elect’s point is that the conclusion some are making here, that the interference went to affecting the election results to try to defeat Hillary Clinton, that’s what he’s calling ‘ridiculous,’ ” she said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
She called it “unfortunate and unfair,” saying the country deserves a peaceful transition of power.
“I just believe unfounded allegations like this really undercut that,” she said.
And incoming Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus criticized the media for using unnamed sources in its reports about the CIA assessment.
He also insisted the Republican National Committee was not hacked.
But some Democratic senators used the weekend warn about Russia’s meddling as well as to blast the president-elect’s reaction.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Trump’s dismissal of the new report makes no sense. He called the allegations “very serious stuff.”
“We’ve got to take a hard look at the role that the Russians played in this election process.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said any attempt by Russia to meddle in the presidential election would be a “form of warfare.”
And Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) warned that Russia is not a friend to the United States.
“We need to find out exactly what has happened. What we do know is that Russia hacked us,” Cardin said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“What we need to do is have that type of investigation to find out what we should do about Russia.”
Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/309886-trump-lawmakers-split-on-severity-of-russian-election-interference