Republican Senate Leader Rebuffs Call For Special Russian Hacking Probe
RFE/RL December 20, 2016
WASHINGTON -- The top Republican in the U.S. Senate has again rejected calls for a special congressional committee to investigate alleged Russian computer hacking during the U.S. presidential election.
Senator Mitch McConnell's remarks, made to a television station in his home state of Kentucky, came amid mounting pressure for a select committee of Senator and House members to lead a probe into the matter.
Over the weekend, Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona) said that having three separate Senate committees conduct investigations would be inefficient and duplicative. The Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence committees are set to take up separate investigations beginning next month.
The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, also supports the effort, along with Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) and Jack Reed (Democrat-Rhode Island).
"It's a serious issue, but it doesn't require a select committee. We already have a committee set up to do this," McConnell said in the December 19 interview with Kentucky Educational Television.
As the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell has wide authority to control the chamber's agenda.
It's unclear how many other Republican senators support McCain's proposal.
Casting A Shadow
The question of the extent to which alleged Russian hackers penetrated U.S. political organizations has already cast a shadow over the November 8 election won by Republican President-elect Donald Trump.
In October, the U.S. intelligence community, which includes 17 different agencies across the government, said it had concluded that hackers directed by the Russian government intruded into Democratic Party servers and e-mail accounts.
Later news reports said Republican servers had also been breached.
And last week, The Washington Post reported that the FBI shared the CIA's conclusions that Russian hackers intervened to help Trump prevail over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the election.
President Vladimir Putin has previously accused Clinton of attempting to stoke political unrest in Russia, while Trump has vowed to improve bilateral ties that have been badly strained over Russian expansionism in Ukraine and Moscow's military intervention in Syria.
President Barack Obama, whom Trump will succeed in January, has defended his administration's response to the alleged Russian hacking, including his refusal to ascribe motive to the meddling.
Obama told reporters on December 16 that he confronted Putin at a summit in China in September, telling the former KGB officer to "cut it out." Intelligence agencies then detected a halt in intrusions.
Obama has ordered a special report on Russian hacking to be issued before the January 20 inauguration.
Trump, for his part, has downplayed the question of Russian cyberattacks, and suggested that the issue is being overblown by Democrats bitter about Clinton's loss.
In a December 16 tweet, he referred to the leak of Democratic Party e-mails that are believed to have been obtained with the help of Russian hackers. One of the leaked e-mails suggested that Clinton was tipped off in advance about questions that would be asked during one of her debates with Trump.
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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