Transition Briefing: Bipartisan Letter Seeks Single Inquiry Into Russian Hacking Claims

by admin December 18, 2016 at 8:11 pm

“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” the senators wrote in a letter released on Sunday. “Cybersecurity is the ultimate cross-jurisdictional challenge, and we must take a comprehensive approach to meet this challenge effectively.”

They recommended that the select committee undertake a “comprehensive investigation of Russian interference” and develop “comprehensive recommendations and, as necessary, new legislation to modernize our nation’s laws, governmental organization, and related practices to meet this challenge.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the armed services committee, signed the letter, along with fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and minority leader; and Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, who also serves on Mr. McCain’s committee. They had previously warned that any congressional investigation into the hacks “cannot become a partisan issue.”

Their call is at odds with Mr. McConnell, who has said that the Senate Intelligence Committee is “more than capable of conducting a complete review” of the interference without the creation of a select committee. As majority leader, Mr. McConnell has the power to decide whether to form a new committee.

The view is also starkly at odds with President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly rejected the conclusions of American intelligence reports, saying they are politically motivated.

Gates says Russian hack was a covert operation to discredit the U.S. election.

Robert M. Gates, who served as secretary of defense under President Obama and President George W. Bush, said on Sunday that Russian cyberattacks were aimed at discrediting the American electoral process and “certainly at weakening” Hillary Clinton.

“Whether it or not it was intended to help one another candidate, I don’t know,” said Mr. Gates, who also served as C.I.A. director under President Bush. “But I think it clearly was aimed at discrediting our elections, and I think it was aimed certainly at weakening Mrs. Clinton.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he stopped short of saying the meddling was intended to help Mr. Trump, and said the best course of action to respond to the cyberattacks was unclear.

Asked why Mr. Trump appeared not to be taking the allegations against Russia seriously, Mr. Gates speculated that the president-elect “felt the way this information came out through newspaper stories and so on was somehow intended to delegitimize his victory in the election and that he’s reacting to that rather than ‘the facts on the ground,’ as it were.”

Mr. Trump has chosen to receive intelligence briefs only occasionally.

Podesta said the F.B.I. contacted him only once.

Few people were as directly affected by the hacking as John D. Podesta, the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. But on Sunday he suggested that there was hardly a zealous effort by the F.B.I. to investigate, adding that the only time he had been contacted by federal agents was two days after his hacked personal emails began appearing on WikiLeaks.

Mr. Podesta said he had believed that some of the documents related to the Democratic National Committee published by WikiLeaks last summer could have come from his account. But he only became certain that his account had been fully compromised when WikiLeaks began publishing its contents on Oct. 7.

“Two days later, the F.B.I. contacted me, and the first thing the agent said to me was, ‘I don’t know if you’re aware, but your email account might have been hacked,’” Mr. Podesta said.

“I said, ‘Yes, I was aware of that,’” he added.

Trump will stand by custom and stay at Blair House.

Mr. Trump will spend his last nights before his inauguration at Blair House after all, keeping alive a tradition that started with President Jimmy Carter four decades ago, a top aide said on Saturday.

Mr. Trump had been considering a stay at his newly opened Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., just blocks from the White House.

But his transition communications director, Jason Miller, said in a Twitter post reacting to a New York Times article late Saturday night that Mr. Trump would follow conventional practice.

Known as “the president’s guesthouse,” Blair House is across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House and normally plays host to visiting heads of state and other dignitaries. Every few years, though, it becomes the pre-inaugural headquarters for the incoming president and first family during the festivities that accompany the formal oath of office.

Mr. Trump and his entourage should have plenty of space to spread out. The complex has 14 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms across 70,000 square feet.

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