Peters among Senate Dems calling for Russia probe

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and six other Democrats in the U.S. Senate are calling for an investigation into allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help elect President Donald Trump.

Peters and fellow Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Tom Carper, D-Del., Jon Tester, D-S.D, Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Friday that they are formally requesting an investigation into “Russia’s attempts to infiltrate and influence the U.S. presidential election on November 8, 2016, by attacking the nation’s election infrastructure.

“Russia’s organized campaign to undermine our presidential election and target our election infrastructure is certainly one of the most pressing issues facing our nation,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the panel’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

“We therefore request that you initiate an investigation… into these issues, and schedule regular hearings to ensure that the American people are kept apprised of the progress and results of the Committee’s investigation …,” the letter from Peters and his colleagues continued. “Only a thorough, transparent investigation will allow the American people to learn exactly what transpired during the 2016 presidential campaign and what changes, if any, are necessary to safeguard our nation’s critical infrastructure from further cyber hacking.”

Allegations of Russian interference in the presidential election have swirled since a hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email system in the midst of the heated contest between Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Speculation picked up further after Michael Flynn was forced to resign just three weeks into the Trump administration after being accused of lying about a call with Russian officials, in which the former National Security Advisor allegedly promised to roll back sanctions on Russia that were put in place by former President Barack Obama before Trump took office.

Trump has forcefully denied allegations of ties between his campaign and Russia.

"Russia — this is fake news put out by the media," Trump said during a press conference at the White House on Thursday, blaming leaks about the reported interaction between his team on former officials from the Obama administration.

“Russia is a ruse,” Trump added later in the press conference. “I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't. I just have nobody to speak to.”

The Democratic senators offered a sharply different perspective in their letter on Friday.

“It has been firmly established that Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government unleashed a pervasive influence campaign in the United States designed to sway our recent election,” the lawmakers wrote.

“On January 6, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a comprehensive, unclassified report, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” which stated, with high confidence, that ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.’”

The senators concluded: “Our security is on the line and public confidence in our officials and institutions is at stake.”

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing