Foreign Relations, Armed Services Gear Up to Probe Russian Hacks

Corker says top six foreign policy senators are united in investigating Russian hacks. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

Top Senate Republicans and Democrats are showing a united front in an effort to investigate alleged Russian hacking operations that the U.S. intelligence community says were designed to interfere in the 2016 election.

The collaboration of key lawmakers comes amid controversial tweets from President-elect Donald Trump that indicate his doubt that intelligence agencies are certain the Russian government meddled in the U.S. election. Lawmakers discussed this issue with reporters Wednesday, one day before top intelligence officials come to Capitol Hill to testify at a hearing.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters he met with his panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), as well as Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) earlier on Wednesday. Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) were also at the meeting.

“Generally speaking, among the six of us, there’s a strong, strong desire to not only understand what’s occurred, but to prevent it from occurring in the future,” Corker told reporters in a hallway huddle.

The six senators are the leaders on the three committees that will be tasked with investigating the cyber-intrusions into Democratic organizations and individuals associated with the 2016 presidential campaign, including the Democratic National Committee and top Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta.

The senators are waiting for a final assessment from the White House before plotting a specific path forward for investigations, Corker said. “I want to sit down with my colleagues and go through that and understand what determinations they’ve made.” He expects to receive the document by next week.

Warner, for his part, said members from both parties are anxious to get started. “There is broad-based bipartisan concern that we’ve got to do this investigation in an appropriate manner as quickly as possible and get as much information as possible out,” Warner told reporters.

Warner is the newly-appointed top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said releasing their findings would be important “not just for the American public to know, but we’ve got elections coming forward in Europe in Germany, Denmark and France.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee who has been outspoken about his opposition to Russia’s activities, told reporters Wednesday that Russia has “a history throughout the world of undermining democracies and these cyberattacks accomplish their goal,” specifically citing Russia’s cyber-operations in Eastern Europe.

“I am convinced beyond any doubt the Russians hacked into the DNC and Podesta,” Graham told reporters. Still, he doesn’t think the hacks changed the outcome of the election. “When you compromise one political party, you compromise all political parties.”

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “foreign cyber threats” featuring the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the head of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers.

“The point of this hearing is to have the intelligence community reinforce from their point of view that the Russians did this,” Graham said.

McCain told reporters that the effort to “subvert a nation’s ability to determine its leaders in its democratic process” is “an act of war.”

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