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Bipartisan leaders in Congress call for investigation; electors ask for intelligence briefing
By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Gage Skidmore

December 12, 2016 (Washington, D.C.) - The Washington Post published a bombshell report Friday, revealing that the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, has concluded that Russia intervened in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

The CIA previously found that Russian hacking sought to undermine confidence in American democracy. But the new assessment goes further, finding that Russian operatives hacked emails of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as the DNC, selectively leaking to Wikileaks only information damaging to Clinton. Russia also hacked into voting systems of multiple states, raising the possibility that voting machines may also have been tampered with.

The findings create a potential constitutional crisis over how Congress and the Electoral College should react to a president who may have been elected fraudulently with help from a foreign power.

The CIA finding reflects conclusions of 17 different intelligence agencies, though stops short of tying hacks directly to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin,  who has a history of using middlemen to hack elections elsewhere, notably n the Ukraine.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, including chairs and ranking members of intelligence and homeland security committees, held a secret meeting to discuss the hacking.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have issued a joint statement Sunday along with incoming Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and ranking Armed Services Committee Democrat Jack Reed. Their statement indicates that Russian interference in the presidential election “should alarm every American.” 

The legislative leaders make clear, “The stakes are too high for our country” for the matter to become a partisan issue. Their joint statement adds that the leaders will seek to unify colleges around the goal of “investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyber attacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.

President Barack Obama has also ordered a full review of Russian hacking during the election. He has asked that the report be completed before he leaves office January 20th.

President-Elect Donald Trump has said of Russian election hacking allegations, “I don’t believe they interfered.”  He has called such allegations “ridiculous” yet has refused to sit for security briefings repeatedly, stating he intends to install his own security team.  Trump insists he won by a landslide even though his electoral college margin is one of the narrowest in U.S. history and Clinton won the popular vote by around 2.8 million votes , the second largest vote count received by any presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Senator McCain told CBS’ Face the Nation, that despite Trump’s denials, “it’s clear the Russians interfered. Facts are stubborn things.”

Some Congressional members have also fought to oppose Trump’s nomination of Rex Tillerson,  Exxon-Mobil CEO,  as Secretary of State due to his close ties to Vladimir Putin.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio,  also a Republican and former rival of Trump, tweeted,  “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a Secretary Of State.”

The 538 members of the Electoral College meet on December 19th to choose the next president. Trump has 306 electors and Clinton has 232.  If 37 Trump electors were to switch to Clinton, she would win. If no candidate receives enough delegate votes to win outright,  the election would be decided by the House of Representatives.  At least six Trump electors have declared they will not vote for him.

Now, 10 Electors – nine Democrats and one Republican, have asked to be cleared to receive a national security briefing. In a letter sent to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the electors state that a briefing on investigative findings into Russian hacking and any ties to Trump or his campaign is critical “as these matters directly impact the core factors in our deliberations of whether Mr. Trump is fit to serve as President of the United States.”


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