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U.S. Senate To Probe Alleged Pro-Trump Hacking By Russia

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters on December 12.
U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters on December 12.

WASHINGTON -- The top Republican in the U.S. Senate has said Congress will investigate the CIA's conclusions that the Russian government used computer hackers to help President-elect Donald Trump win the election.

The announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on December 12 comes amid growing alarm and debate among U.S. policymakers, elected officials, and the intelligence community about the extent and intent of the hacking.

The White House, which has ordered a separate in-depth investigation into cyberattacks during the election campaign, welcomed news of the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Speaking to reporters on December 12, McConnell condemned possible Russian hacking into computers of the Democratic National Committee and other U.S. political organizations.

He also said the investigation into possible Russian interference should not be a partisan issue.

"Russians are not our friends," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to receive the results of the investigation he ordered before Trump takes office on January 20.

Public Accusation

On October 7, before the election, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper publicly accused the Russian government of involvement in the breach of Democratic Party computers.

Clapper's statement was made on behalf of the CIA and 16 other agencies that comprise the U.S. intelligence community.

On December 9, The Washington Post reported that the CIA had determined the intent of the Russia hackers was to help Trump win the presidency, not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.

The New York Times also reported that intelligence officials had concluded Russian hackers accessed Republican Party computers but didn't release potentially damaging e-mails or other materials.

That led analysts to conclude that the intent of the Russian hacking was to in fact help propel Trump to the White House.

Those conclusions have been dismissed by Trump, who said in a December 11 television interview that the CIA conclusions were being used by Democrats to undermine his electoral victory

"I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it," Trump told Fox News.

But congressional leaders from both parties have called for a full inquiry into the extent of Russian hacking.

"For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyberattacks at America's physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property," said the statement released on December 11 by John McCain (Republican-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina), Jack Reed (Democrat-Rhode Island), and Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York). "Now our democratic institutions have been targeted."

"Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American," they said.

'Especially Problematic'

Speaking to reporters in Washington on December 12, McConnell said, "Obviously, any foreign breach of our cybersecurity measures is disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts."

Because Republicans hold a majority of seats in the Senate, McConnell has broad authority to control the schedule, the agenda of the chamber, and other matters.

The Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, also backed the idea of having his chamber's Intelligence Committee examine cyberthreats to the U.S. electoral process.

"Any foreign intervention in our elections is entirely unacceptable," Ryan said in a statement. "And any intervention by Russia is especially problematic, because under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that has undermined American interests."

Nevertheless, Ryan argued that that inquiry should not undermine Trump's electoral victory.

Some members of Congress have also pushed back against the man thought to be Trump's leading candidate for secretary of state, ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson has long business contacts in Russia, and has met repeatedly with Putin over the years.

ExxonMobil also has major investments in Russia's oil and gas industry, including one in the Far Eastern region of Sakhalin, that has been effectively frozen by the Russian government.

Trump's transition team said in a post to Twitter on December 11 that no announcement on his choice for secretary of state would be made before next week "at the earliest."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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