Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Monday that the Senate Intelligence Committee was capable of investigating Russian hacking intended to influence the U.S. presidential election, saying he wanted to follow “the regular order” of congressional review rather than convene a special committee.
Reading from a prepared statement at a press conference on Capitol Hill, McConnell told reporters that “this simply cannot be a partisan issue.”
“Let me remind all of you that the Senate Intelligence Committee on which I and the chairman sit as ex-officio members, and Sen. Schumer will join us on the committee,” he continued. “And he can review this matter through the regular order. I have every confidence in Chairman [Richard] Burr that he’ll review it in a responsible way.”
McConnell noted that the Obama administration is also launching a review into hacking of the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and that Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) said he would conduct a review on the threat the U.S. faces from cyberattacks.
Yet he stopped short of expressing support for a call from a bipartisan group of senators, including McCain, Schumer, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), to launch a select committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the election.
“We’re going to follow the regular order,” McConnell repeated. “It’s an important subject and we intend to review it on a bipartisan basis.”
Schumer thanked McConnell for supporting a “deep and thorough bipartisan investigation” in a Monday statement.
“This issue should not and must not turn into a political football,” he wrote. “It’s absolutely essential that this investigation be bipartisan, wide-ranging, and have access to all of the relevant intelligence so that we can find out how this happened, and how we can stop it from happening ever again.”
During his press conference, the Senate Majority Leader also broke from President-elect Donald Trump and his aides to express “the highest confidence” in U.S. intelligence agencies and insist that the “Russians are not our friends.”
Trump claimed this weekend that the FBI and CIA don’t “know” for certain the extent to which the Kremlin attempted to disrupt the election, and on Monday implied that Democrats were playing the “Russia/CIA card” to undermine the results. He has repeatedly said it would be “nice” if the U.S. had warmer relations with Russia and has surrounded himself with advisors and cabinet nominees who have close ties to Vladimir Putin’s government.
Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
McConnell declined to comment on Trump’s views on Russia, instead saying, “I think we ought to approach all of these issues on the assumption that the Russians do not wish us well.”
“I hope that those who were going to be in a position of responsibility in the new administration share my view,” he added.