Congress to investigate Russian hacking of U.S. election

Leading Senate Republicans are preparing to launch a coordinated and wide-ranging probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and its potential cyberthreats to the military. Republicans ready to launch wide-ranging probe of Russia, despite Trump’s stance:

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (Ariz.) is readying a probe of possible Russian cyber-incursions into U.S. weapons systems, and he said he has been discussing the issue with Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.), with whom he will be “working closely” to investigate Russia’s suspected interference in the U.S. elections and cyberthreats to the military and other institutions.

* * *

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also said he intends to hold hearings next year into alleged Russian hacking. Corker is on Trump’s shortlist for secretary of state, according to the Trump transition team.

McCain and Graham talk at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House in WashingtonThe loudest GOP calls for a Russia probe are coming from McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Both have taken a hard line on Russia and have been highly critical of Trump, particularly his praise of President Vladimir Putin.

“They’ll keep doing more here until they pay a price,” Graham said of Russia. He plans to spearhead legislation and hold a series of investigative hearings next year into “Russia’s misadventures throughout the world,” including Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.

“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia. I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay the price,” Graham said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

McCain said his Armed Services Committee will launch a probe in the 115th Congress into Russia’s cyber-capabilities against the U.S. military and weapons systems, “because the real threat is cyber,” he explained.

But McCain said he expects the investigation will also dovetail with the topic of Russia’s suspected hacking of the DNC and state-based election systems — which include a hack that took place in McCain’s home state of Arizona.

“See, the problem with hacking is that if they’re able to disrupt elections, then it’s a national security issue, obviously,” McCain said Thursday.

He added that the Armed Services Committee was “still formulating” exactly how to address the issue during hearings. But despite Trump’s dismissal, McCain said that “there’s very little doubt” Russia interfered in the U.S. elections, which he called “very worthy of examination.”

The U.S. government in October officially accused Russia of hacking the DNC’s emails during the presidential campaign. The emails were posted on websites such as WikiLeaks and embarrassed the party, notably forcing Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to resign as DNC chairwoman.

And U.S. military officials officials are concerned about Russia’s capacity to steal military secrets and corrupt operations: Officials already suspect that Russian hackers were behind a major email breach at the Pentagon last year. And the military could be a target for backlash, after an NBC News report widely circulated by Russian media said that U.S. military hackers were ready to launch cyberattacks against Russia in the event of an obvious election hack.

On Friday, President Obama ordered the intelligence agencies to prepare a report about the Russian hacking. Obama orders investigation of Russian hacking during 2016 election:

[A]mid mounting calls to investigate Russian meddling, President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to review those efforts to influence the election, and issue a full report before he leaves office.

“The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process,” Homeland Security adviser Linda Monaco told reporters Friday morning, CNN reports, explaining that the White House hopes to “capture lessons learned” over the past several years. “This is consistent with the work that we did over the summer to engage Congress on the threats that we were seeing.”

It was not clear from the announcement whether the White House intends to release the report to the public, either in full or in redacted form. “You want to do so very attentive to not disclosing sources and methods that would impede our ability to identify and attribute malicious actors in the future,” Monaco said.

Obama wants the report before he leaves office January 20, Monaco said. The review will be led by James Clapper, the outgoing director of national intelligence, officials said.

Overnight the Washington Post reported that a Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House:

Putin-Trump-KissThe CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“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,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

* * *

The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.

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In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.

The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “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 [false]. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” the statement read.

Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.

“I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

* * *

Seven Democratic senators last week asked Obama to declassify details about the intrusions and why officials believe that the Kremlin was behind the operation. Officials said Friday that the senators specifically were asking the White House to release portions of the CIA’s presentation.

This week, top Democratic lawmakers in the House also sent a letter to Obama, asking for briefings on Russian interference in the election.

The report goes on to describe how members of Congress were briefed during the election.

Aaron Blake writes, The CIA concluded that Russia worked to elect Trump. Republicans now face an impossible choice.

The Post’s report highlights and exacerbates the increasingly fraught situation in which congressional Republicans find themselves with regard to Russia and Trump. By acknowledging and digging into the increasing evidence that Russia helped — or at least attempted to help — tip the scales in Trump’s favor, they risk raising questions about whether Trump would have won without Russian intervention.

Trump, after all, won by a margin of about 80,000 votes cast across three states, winning each of the decisive states by less than one percentage point. So even a slight influence could have plausibly made the difference, though we’ll never be able to prove it one way or another.

While saying that Russia clearly tried to help Trump doesn’t inherently call into question the legitimacy of Trump’s win —earlier Friday, the White House made sure to emphasize that it’s not making that case — it’s not hard to connect the dots. And Trump and his party know it. The Post’s report cited Republicans who expressed skepticism about the available evidence when presented with it in September, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

In addition, any GOP effort to dig into the matter risks antagonizing the president-elect, who has said flatly that he doesn’t believe Russia interfered with the election, despite receiving intelligence briefings to the contrary. And he’s proved more than willing to go after fellow Republicans who run afoul of him.

On the other hand, if Republicans play down the issue, they risk giving a pass to an antagonistic foreign power that significant majorities of Americans and members of Congress do not trust and which, if the evidence is accurate, wields significant power to wage successful cyberwarfare with the United States.

* * *

Trump has shown that he’s committed to seeing the best in Russia, and it’s unlikely another report from the “dishonest media” citing anonymous sources is going to change his mind.

And Trump has every reason to continue to dig in. He doesn’t want to breathe any life into the story line that he owes his election to Russian interference. Trump, after all, is a winner, and the idea that someone else might have won it for him just won’t fly.

Update: A statement from Trump’s transition team, as expected, took a defiant tone about The Post’s report: “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.’”

But for congressional Republicans, the evidence is increasingly getting to the point where they simply can’t ignore it, and some of them are feeling compelled to act — in a way that Trump isn’t likely to embrace.

* * *

Many Republicans are undoubtedly concerned about this. But as long as Trump is holding fast to the idea that this is all made up in an effort to undermine him, this whole thing could reinforce the long-standing chasm within the GOP, with him and his base pitted against establishment Republicans who will (again) be made to look like they’re trying to take down their outsider president-elect. And you can bet that’ll be how Trump pitches it.

It all presents a possibly inauspicious start for the GOP Congress in the Trump era: a potential Trump vs. congressional-Republicans-battle over the same election that surprisingly installed him as president.

Greg Sargent speculates about What happens if Russia did interfere in our election?

24 responses to “Congress to investigate Russian hacking of U.S. election

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    What an ironic kettle the US has become, calling the Russian pot black.

    Since WW2, a list of governments we’ve overthrown or tried to overthrow.

    Iran 1953 *
    Guatemala 1954 *
    Costa Rica mid-1950s
    Syria 1956-7
    Egypt 1957
    Indonesia 1957-8
    British Guiana 1953-64 *
    Iraq 1963 *
    North Vietnam 1945-73
    Cambodia 1955-70 *
    Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
    Ecuador 1960-63 *
    Congo 1960 *
    France 1965
    Brazil 1962-64 *
    Dominican Republic 1963 *
    Cuba 1959 to present
    Bolivia 1964 *
    Indonesia 1965 *
    Ghana 1966 *
    Chile 1964-73 *
    Greece 1967 *
    Costa Rica 1970-71
    Bolivia 1971 *
    Australia 1973-75 *
    Angola 1975, 1980s
    Zaire 1975
    Portugal 1974-76 *
    Jamaica 1976-80 *
    Seychelles 1979-81
    Chad 1981-82 *
    Grenada 1983 *
    South Yemen 1982-84
    Suriname 1982-84
    Fiji 1987 *
    Libya 1980s
    Nicaragua 1981-90 *
    Panama 1989 *
    Bulgaria 1990 *
    Albania 1991 *
    Iraq 1991
    Afghanistan 1980s *
    Somalia 1993
    Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
    Ecuador 2000 *
    Afghanistan 2001 *
    Venezuela 2002 *
    Iraq 2003 *
    Haiti 2004 *
    Somalia 2007 to present
    Honduras 2009
    Libya 2011 *
    Syria 2012
    Ukraine 2014 *

    I’m shocked, shocked, to find out Russia has been messing with US.

  2. Let me add the pathetic media to the mix of reasons why people weren’t informed of facts and truth. When the media is more concerned with $$ than truth and informing the public of facts and not opinion….we have a problem. Instead, they spent their time covering the words of a lunatic game show host that was ignorant of just about everything…and treated his insanity like it was normal.

  3. I love it when tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee (McCain and Graham) get together to squeak their outrage at some issue thet will get the press fawning over them. So they are going to hold Senate hearings to investigate the Russians. Another pile of money wasted on windbag Senators who will crowd each other out in front of the cameras, speak with great pomposity about nothing and then decide in the end that they can’t agree on anything. Trump’s election may have been a surprise, but Congress is not.

    ““I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia. I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay the price,” Graham said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.”

    I am certain that Putin is shaking in his boots at the thought of Graham wanting him to personally pay the price. I am sure that our toothless battle chihuaha Graham has the wherewithal to bring Russia to its knees. Especially with Old Man McCain rattling his rusty saber behind him.

    “While saying that Russia clearly tried to help Trump doesn’t inherently call into question the legitimacy of Trump’s win it’s not hard to connect the dots.”

    Of course it’s hard not to connect the dots…especially when that is the whole purpose in doing this. All the talk about worrying about national security is actually secondary to the overwhelming desire to delegitimize the Trump Presidency. Since the recounts crap backfired, this is step 2.

    The GOP had best get used to it. The democrats are not good losers and they have good friends in the media, so there will be a never ending assault on the Trump Presidency for the next eight years he is in office.

    • Yet another ridiculous comment. Sorry, Steve. You miss the big picture. This isn’t about delegitimizing Trump…he can do that everyday, 24/7, all by himself. This is about a foreign, HOSTILE govt interfering with the outcome of a US election to meet their ends. Trump is a subversive and all his people are toxic. He needs to go.

      • John Huppenthal

        The stock market and the value of private companies in the US have increased by over 2 trillion since Trump’s election. What is toxic about that?

        • For Sure Not Tom

          How much of that 2 trillion is going to the middle class? How much to Trump’s voters?

          None.

          You worship wealth over people. It’s creepy.

          • At most $200 billion, given that the bottom 90% own about 10% of stocks in this country. Less if we count the fact that foreign and institutional investors also own a substantial chunk of the market. Of course, most of that is in retirement accounts. Not in and of itself bad, but if Social Security suffers cuts or this increase is in anticipation of privatization of the same, then it’s not a net positive.

          • “How much of that 2 trillion is going to the middle class? How much to Trump’s voters? None.”

            Not true. A significant number of the middle class have investment account and they have seen their portfolios grow by a large amount. Thier mutual funds are doing extremely well. They are participating in this economic Boom.

            I don’t know how many were Trump voters and Google couldn’t show me. However, it was certainly more than “none” as you state.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            I suppose I should have asked how paper gains on Wall Street help the economy or give rust belters jobs.

            Wall Street is not Main Street. Ask Hillary about that one.

        • The fact that the overwhelming majority of stock ownership is concentrated in the hands of the top 10%.

          The toplines don’t look *so* bad: http://www.gallup.com/poll/182816/little-change-percentage-americans-invested-market.aspx

          Slightly more than half of Americans earning between $30-75k per year own a nonzero amount of stock, as do a fifth of those earning less.

          Dig a little deeper: http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

          The bottom two quintiles together average a net worth of less than $1000. Now, that’s net worth, and includes some amount of new doctors & lawyers making $300,000 gross per year while sitting on $400,000 in debt, and they’re doing just fine. But that’s far less than 40% of the total US population.

          Now, the damning stat is this: 90% of stock wealth in this country is owned by the top 10%, and 50% is owned by the top 1%.

          Now, maybe it’s news to celebrate that the richest 3 million Americans just got a $1.8 trillion dollar payday, or $600,000 apiece for their election. Damn good rate of return for the estimated $300,000,000 spent on his campaign. I’d love to get a 600,000% rate of return on my investments too, but unfortunately, I don’t have that sort of purchasing power. A shame.

      • Cheri, you are a nice lady, but you missed the point here. Russia may have attmpted to influence our election, but it did not seem to have any effect. Every time something was released Hillary’s numbers went up because her support base didn’t believe it. Trump gained little or nothing from the effort based on the polls taken whenever some new tidbit was released. It is, like so many other efforts, an excuse to explain why Hillary lost. Rather than admit she ran a lousy campaign, the preference is to find Trump did something wrong or a Trump surrogate did something wrong.

        The democrats ARE trying hard to delefitimize Trump because the effort to overturn the election keep failing. It is a fall back position to try and keep making it look like Trump is not the legitimate President elect. Unfortunately for them he IS the legitimate President elect and when he is sworn in in January, he will be the legitimate President of the United States.

        I also find it ironic that we Americans are whining about the possibility the Russians might have tried to interfere in our election considering the dozens of other countries where we have interfered with their elections. It seems like much ado about nothing in comparison. If Russia did attempt to interfere, we should find out and then do something about it. What we shouldn’t do is get hysterical about it.

        As a side note, I fully expect the childish behavior of some democrats to continue and I anticipate they will try and disrupt the Inauguration Ceremony. I also expect eight years of hearing “La! La! La! He’s not my President! La! La! La!”. Of course he WILL be their President, but they will take comfort from thier silly little chant…

  4. it wasn’t russian hackers who told voters in coal areas of western pennsylvania and eastern ohio that it was a good thing that they lost their jobs to coal mines shutting down for climate change democrats (clinton). or wisconsin and michigan and nearly minnesota that tpp was a good thing by mrs. clinton. oh! the unions will support bernie over tpp? I guess I am against it till the elections over. election day sign in pennsylvania. trump digs coal clinton digs transgender bathrooms! and you wonder how she lost.

    • Your concern for national security from Russian cyber warfare is underwhelming. This is not about the election per se.

    • You literally have NO IDEA what you’re talking about! Your response is so superficial that its stunning in its lack of understanding and knowledge of the situation that’s actually at hand. WAKE UP from your partisan stupor and think BIGGER!

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/10/how-russian-hackers-can-blackmail-donald-trump-and-the-gop.html

      And FYI..those coal mining jobs you talk about…with no mention of the owners that literally KILLED those workers by ignoring safety regulations in those mines, for the love of $$ over workers…wait till the PutinPuppet takes away their only means of survival in the form of Medicare, SS, and Medicaid. What will you say then? Who’s fault will THAT be? Pull your head out.

      • “…wait till the PutinPuppet takes away their only means of survival in the form of Medicare, SS, and Medicaid.”

        Excellent point. Why didn’t It’s-My-Turn-Hillary campaign make MONUMENTAL issues of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security? Trump said something along the lines of those programs wouldn’t be touched, if I’m not mistaken, and the Democrats are like, “Okay, just give us a minute to get our tails back between our legs.” Then it’s all about Rapey Trump, Misogynist Trump, Trump is a Monster, etc… And this is what, a billion dollar campaign?

        This Epic Failure is a Democratic Party / Hillary Clinton Campaign Failure and this highly predictable attack on the social safety net that the Republican Party has dreamed of since the New Deal and every day since is the fault of the Democratic establishment elitists who are getting to a point where they won’t be able to get dog catchers elected if they don’t WAKE UP.

        The voters are what they are. Campaign strategists getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars are supposed to know how to win elections. This election was winnable for the Democrats in spite of the obstacles (including the unpopular candidate). But the Democrats gave it away.

        • https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/social-security-and-medicare/

          How many times does someone have to repeat these things? At some point, voters have to do the work that good citizens are SUPPOSED to do. Do I think that Dems did everything right? Probably not, but who does. I see that in blaming the Dems, you neglected to even mention the gerrymandering in Republican states, the voter suppression, voter intimidation promised by the Republicans again certain “urban” voters, and the role back of VRA protections, the cyberattacks, etc. How convienient. Selective memory strikes again.

        • “At some point, voters have to do the work that good citizens are SUPPOSED to do.”

          Conversely, the highly compensated campaign managers of a billion dollar campaign should do the work that they are SUPPOSED to do. Hillary’s path to victory was not some unknown, mysterious other worldly phenomenon. Nobody expected her to win Oklahoma or Texas or Kentucky.

          You can blame the voters until it snows in hell but voters are what they are, that is the reality. And campaign managers work with reality, supposedly, not what voters SHOULD be doing if they were “good citizens” by your definition.

          If the Democrats wanted to win this election by staking the moral high ground, then their most credible position is that they legislated the social safety net in its entirety and the GOP intends to privatize it.

          And when Trump railed on about repealing and replacing Obamacare he was never required to speak on this beyond a talking point. Why not? And when he said that Social Security and Medicare were not going to be touched, he was never asked what guarantees would be put in place to ward off the GOP that so desperately wants to privatize those programs. No, the geniuses running Hillary’s campaign believed they would stake the moral high ground by running a seemingly infinite number of TV ads attempting to convince the undecided voters that Donald Trump is the quintessence of moral turpitude. Almost all of her TV ads were about Trump the Monster, unfit to lead, etc…

          I did say in my comment that the Democrats had obstacles without specifically mentioning voter suppression, etc… Those are very legitimate arguments. Yet, the fact remains that Hillary narrowly lost her must have blue states on her path to victory but won the popular vote overall which seems to indicate the campaign was weak in places where it could not afford to fail. Maybe she should have visited Wisconsin, for example.

      • Here’s how to lose an election, this right here:

        • Their plan worked precisely as planned. By “their” I mean the Russians. You, my dear, are what they call A PAWN.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            The dems lost because they ran Hillary Wall Street Kissinger.

            Not because of the Russians, or the FBI, or Fake News. They’ve been tone deaf to the needs of the country and to their base, they’ve been arrogant, corrupt, and hell bent on another Clinton.

            Proof? A few million Obama voters switched to Trump or didn’t turn out at all. That should say everything anyone should need to hear about this election. That’s how bad the relationship between the Dems and the working and middle class has become.

            Calling people Russian pawns helps Trump and Russia more than anything else, we should be sending neo-liberals and the Clinton’s packing and working on connecting with the people Democrats claim to represent.

          • Yeah, the rust belt voters huffed and puffed and blew down the House of Clinton. But don’t expect them to ride off into the sunset. Donations to the Clinton Foundation will suffer a precipitous decline if the Clintons are not influential in politics. They’ll find a way.

        • I knew you couldn’t get through this without at least one ad hominem attack. Well, good for you. It goes right along with all of the self-righteous denial. Name calling doesn’t win elections as Hillary just learned.