U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham talks to a reporter as he arrives at Capitol Hill in Washington U.S. on May 10, 2016.
Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Lindsey Graham: 99 senators reject Trump’s line on Russia scandal

Updated
Every U.S. intelligence agency believes Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election, launching an espionage operation in part to put Donald Trump in the White House. And yet, even now, the president-elect and his transition team refuse to accept these findings.

On Capitol Hill, there’s apparently far less skepticism.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says President-elect Donald Trump is at odds with nearly the entire Senate over whether Russia interfered in the election.

“There are 100 United States senators…. I would say that 99 percent of us believe that the Russians did this, and we’re going to do something about it,” Graham told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “The Situation Room” on Tuesday.
It was an interesting quote, in large part because it raises a series of related questions. For example, if 99 senators accept the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies, which is the one who doesn’t?

Graham said policymakers are prepared to “do something,” but what might that entail? In this case, the South Carolina Republican added in the same interview that he intends to push for congressional hearings and new sanctions, though the latter would require Donald Trump’s signature, and the incoming GOP president is unlikely to support any policy that his close Russian ally opposes.

All of which leads to the third and most important question: just how far are Graham and his like-minded senators prepared to go in pursuing this issue?

As recently as last week, a trio of Senate Republicans announced plans to introduce legislation that would create a special select panel to investigate Russian interference with the American election, and almost immediately thereafter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated his opposition to the idea, saying he wants an investigation in the Intelligence Committee, where the matter can be quietly buried.

But let’s not forget, the next Senate will be narrowly divided at 52-48. That gives small groups of Republicans enormous leverage, if they choose to exercise it. It’s a simple matter of arithmetic: if three GOP senators – in this case, Graham, John McCain, and Cory Gardner – tell their party’s leadership that they’ll balk at the party’s other priorities until plans for a select committee move forward, McConnell & Co. are likely to give them what they want.

So, how much do they want it?


Lindsey Graham, Russia and Vladimir Putin

Lindsey Graham: 99 senators reject Trump's line on Russia scandal

Updated