Jack Reed, John McCain urge bipartisan probe of Russia election hacks

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and three other prominent senators issued an unusual bipartisan statement Sunday morning expressing concern about reports that Russia interfered with the presidential election and calling on Congress to look into what happened.

Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-signed the statement along with Republican Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, and senior Armed Services Republican Lindsey Graham.

“This cannot become a partisan issue,” the four senators said. “The stakes are too high for our country.”

The statement came less than 48 hours after The Washington Post reported a CIA intelligence review concluded the Russian government directed efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign in order to help elect Donald Trump. The Post also said senior members of Congress were briefed on the findings.

The president-elect’s team quickly dismissed the report, recalling the flawed intelligence that led up to the Iraq war in 2003, and some Republicans have downplayed the allegations. But the four senators pushed back Sunday.

“Recent reports of Russian interference should alarm every American,” they said, saying Congress has “an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society.”

It’s not the first time the generally circumspect Reed has spoken out about his concerns regarding Russian influence on the election.

He co-signed a terse letter to President Obama from Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee urging him to declassify the intelligence about Russia and the election, and late Friday he issued a statement saying McCain had agreed to conduct bipartisan Armed Services Committee hearings into cyberattacks that could “shed light” on Russia’s alleged actions.

Nor is Reed the only Rhode Island Democrat speaking out. Congressman David Cicilline made national headlines Saturday when he became the first member of Congress to suggest members of the Electoral College should consider the reports about Russia when they cast their votes for president this month.

Here is the full statement issued by the four senators:

For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyberattacks at America’s physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions have been targeted. Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American.

Congress’s national security committees have worked diligently to address the complex challenge of cybersecurity, but recent events show that more must be done. While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society. Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks.

This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram