Sen. Charles Schumer, the incoming Democratic minority leader, called on Republican leaders—right up to President-elect Donald Trump—to help “get to the bottom” of Central Intelligence Agency findings that the government of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin meddled in the U.S. election to get the Queens-born businessman into the White House.
Addressing the press prior to an unrelated event in Manhattan, Schumer reiterated calls he made yesterday with a handful of colleagues for a full-scale commission to investigate the CIA’s conclusion that the cyberattacks that sandbagged Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the months ahead of the vote were part of a Russian plot to install Trump in the Oval Office. Trump is an unabashed admirer of Putin, and has long called for thawing icy relations between Washington and Moscow—even at the expense of American allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“The fact that the Soviet government has been shown, at least by many briefed by the CIA, to actually be hacking our political institutions with the potential effort to change our election results is devastating,” Schumer said, apparently alluding to Putin’s past as Communist-era secret agent. “Every American—Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative and independent, should care about this.”
Schumer noted that Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain and Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, both vocal critics of the Manhattan real estate mogul throughout the campaign, had signed onto the push to impanel a special committee to investigate—proof, the senator said, that his concerns were impartial and bipartisan. He insisted such a body must enjoy unfettered access to both classified and unclassified material.
“It’s not going to be like Benghazi, where it’s pointed at one party,” said Schumer, recalling the fiercely politicized Congressional hearings on Clinton’s handling of the deadly raid on the American embassy in Libya. “We’ll take the facts and follow them where they lead.”
Trump’s transition team initially struck a defiant tone on the reports of Russian interference, but future chief of staff Reince Priebus later said he believed a formal investigation would be appropriate. Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed the idea of having the Senate Intelligence Committee study the matter, even as he batted down the notion of establishing a separate commission.
Both of these Schumer interpreted as promising signs.
“The fact that foreign governments, particularly Putin and Russia, may be actually trying to influence our elections is a frightening thought,” he said. “I think the president-elect should get to the bottom of this.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.