U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, left, speaks as John McCain listens during a press conference at the David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem, on Jan. 3, 2014.
Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AP

Senate Republicans prepared to kill special Russia hacking probe

Just two weeks ago, four prominent U.S. senators – two Democrats and two Republicans – issued a joint call for a special select committee to investigate allegations that Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election. The effort, launched by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), seemed to increase the pressure on the GOP leadership to take the scandal seriously.

A day later, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), hardly a moderate, announced a plan of his own to introduce legislation that would create a select committee on cybersecurity, which would tackle, among other things, the suspected Russian espionage operation.

Two weeks later, Politico reports that those efforts, which appeared to be gaining momentum, are now effectively dead.
John McCain and Lindsey Graham are backing off of their push for a select committee on cybersecurity after Russian interference in the election, bowing to the political reality that the Senate Republican Conference largely does not back their idea. […]

McCain said he’d spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about the matter. McConnell prefers to use the Intelligence Committee to spearhead the cyber investigation, and McCain said their discussions had done little to move the GOP leader. “He said he doesn’t think we need it,” McCain said.
It’s a missed opportunity. As we discussed the other day, in a 52-48 Senate, small groups of Republicans have an enormous amount of leverage, if they choose to exercise it. It’s a simple matter of arithmetic: if three GOP senators – in this case, Graham, McCain, and 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. would be more inclined to give them what they want.

The question is just how much they want a special investigation into a foreign adversary subverting the American democracy. The answer, evidently, is not that much.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the whole mess will be swept under the rug. Republican leaders in both chambers are prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the Intelligence Committee chairs – in this case, the Intelligence Committees are led by pro-Trump partisans who’ve generally shown passive indifference to the scandal – but McCain’s Armed Services Committee can and will launch its own hearings, reportedly as early as tomorrow.

Graham told Politico, “We’re just going to move with the individual committees and see how that works. If it doesn’t work, we’ll regroup.”


John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Senate Republicans

Senate Republicans prepared to kill special Russia hacking probe