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

Will allegations of Russian interference get Congress’ attention?

Updated
A few months ago, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence looked into allegations that Vladimir Putin’s Russia took deliberate criminal steps to interfere with the American presidential election. The agencies came to the same conclusion: Russia apparently stole American materials in order to interfere with our political process, hoping to boost one American candidate over the other.

An alleged crime of this magnitude should probably be of great interest to Congress, but of late, the Republican majority, satisfied that suspected Russian efforts helped the GOP, has ignored Democratic calls for an investigation. As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, the partisan attitudes are starting to change, at least a little.
Democrats’ efforts got a bipartisan boost Wednesday, when Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said he would lead an inquiry into the Russian operation. Mr. Graham, who previously had called on Congress to look into the Russian hacks, told CNN that he would pursue inquiries via subcommittees that he chairs. […]

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said his committee has looked into holding closed-door hearings on the issue of potential Russian interference in the election. “We have committee members that are interested and we certainly intend to pursue what if any interference took place,” Mr. Corker said.
Mother Jones’ David Corn reported yesterday that Democrats are pushing for an independent commission – along the lines of the 9/11 Commission – to investigate the allegations, but no Republicans have endorsed the idea. What’s more, the creation of such a panel would need a presidential signature – and Donald Trump continues to believe that Putin is telling the truth and U.S. intelligence agencies are lying about Russian activities.

I’m sure this is going to come across as horribly naive, but there’s no reason this controversy should be seen as necessarily partisan or ideological.

When U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that a foreign government deliberately intervened in a national American election, intending to change the outcome for its preferred candidate, it put a spotlight on what is probably one of the most important controversies in decades.

American policymakers – even the most die-hard Trump followers who are delighted that Russia’s efforts paid dividends – should care about crimes of this magnitude. We are, after all, talking about the integrity of the American democracy. Federal policymakers should be outraged by any attempt from a foreign state to interfere with our elections for its own purposes, much less a successful operation.

The point would be to investigate what a foreign rival did, what the United States should do in response, and what steps can be taken to prevent similar crimes in the future.

What could possibly justify indifference? Before the election, even Mike Pence said Russia should face “severe” and “serious” consequences if it compromised the security of the United States. So why not have an investigation to determine Russia’s culpability?

Postscript: I can appreciate why some on the right, driven solely by partisan concerns, may worry about this undermining the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. After all, it obviously doesn’t look great that agents of Vladimir Putin allegedly took steps to manipulate Americans in the hopes of electing the Republican amateur. But given that the president-elect received nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, the legitimacy problem probably can’t get much worse, so policymakers of both parties should at least try to learn what exactly happened.



Congress, Lindsey Graham, Russia and Vladimir Putin

Will allegations of Russian interference get Congress' attention?

Updated