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U.S. Electors Demand Briefing On Russian-Meddling Claim Before Voting

  • RFE/RL

John Podesta, chairman of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign, said U.S. electors have a "solemn responsibility" to investigate claims of Russian meddling in the election.

John Podesta, chairman of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign, said U.S. electors have a "solemn responsibility" to investigate claims of Russian meddling in the election.

Some of the U.S. electors who are charged with determining the next president in a vote next week have called for a briefing to detail evidence behind a finding that Russia intervened to help Donald Trump win the November 8 popular vote.

With support from defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign, 10 electors -- nine Democrats and one Republican -- said they needed the briefing to understand the strength of the evidence on Russia's hacking of Democratic e-mails before the 538-member Electoral College gathers to vote on December 19.

"The electors require to know from the intelligence community whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in those investigations," they said on December 12 in an open letter to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

"We further require a briefing on all investigative findings, as these matters directly impact the core factors in our deliberations of whether Mr. Trump is fit to serve as president of the United States."

U.S. electors usually simply ratify the results of the state-by-state popular vote, but the U.S. Constitution gives them some discretion to take into account extraordinary factors that may throw those results into question.

The questions raised by the handful of electors came after media over the weekend reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had concluded that Moscow intended to help elect Trump with the hacking of Democratic Party e-mails and documents that were subsequently leaked to WikiLeaks and damaged Clinton's campaign.

Trump has branded that conclusion "ridiculous," but senior members of Congress are taking it seriously, and say they will launch investigations.

The Clinton campaign threw its weight behind the electors' request for a briefing, which was led by the daughter of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman whose private campaign e-mails were leaked by the hackers, said the electors' letter "raises very grave issues involving our national security."

"Electors have a solemn responsibility under the constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed," he said.

The Clinton campaign is also calling on the White House to declassify information in its intelligence assessment which found the Russian hackers' goal was to help elect Trump.

The U.S. Constitution dictates that the Electoral College ultimately decides the presidential election, not the popular vote.

Each U.S. state is given a number of electors that corresponds to the size of the state's population.

In the November 8 vote, Clinton bested Trump in the popular vote by two percentage points, but Trump captured more states and earned 306 electoral votes to Clinton's 232, giving him the White House victory.

Clay Pell, one of the electors who signed the letter, said it was "essential" to understand what happened before the electors meet to confirm the election result.

"It's absolutely the role of the Electoral College to consider that," he told AFP.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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