- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee called for a special prosecutor and an independent commission to investigate Russia’s role in President Trump’s election Monday following a visit to CIA headquarters.

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, made the request after he said officials showed him classified evidence proving Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in last year’s race in an effort to sabotage Mr. Trump’s opponent, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“It confirms what the intelligence community have said publicly, that the Russians at the order of Putin deliberately involved themselves in the campaign to undermine the candidacy of Clinton,” Mr. Reedtold the Providence Journal after his Monday morning visit to Langley.

“We need a special prosecutor and an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate this matter. It must be a fair and independent investigation and actual facts must be brought to light so the American public has an opportunity to make a fact-based judgement,” Mr. Reedadded.

Committees in both the House and Senate are currently conducting their own probes concerning last year’s race, and FBI Director James Comey acknowledged Monday that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia prior to his November 2016 election. Notwithstanding no fewer than three separate probes, however, Mr. Reed joined a chorus of lawmakers Monday calling for additional inquiries.

Legislation being considered in the House, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, would establish a national commission devoted to investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election. Absent the addition of a Republican co-sponsor last month, however, the bill’s been dormant since its introduction in January.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said previously that he believed GOP leadership would prevent the establishment of a select bipartisan committee devoted to Russia’s purported election meddling. Less than 24 hours after Mr. Comey concluded Monday’s testimony, however, revelations concerning last year’s race may motivate lawmakers from either side of the aisle to soon demand further action.

“Republicans in Congress need to put the good of our country and the strength of our democracy ahead of partisan interests. If Republicans impede fair and open investigations into this matter, then Russia will continue its misconduct. We already know Russia is now replicating its playbook against our European allies,” Mr. Reed said Monday.

“We know a hostile foreign power wanted to undermine our democracy, hurt Hillary Clinton, and help Donald Trump. But the American people deserve to know how, why, and whether any American citizens were complicit in aiding and abetting them.

Americans aren’t entirely sure Congress should take charge, however. While a bipartisan commission could potentially be composed of individuals from outside government, 65 percent of Americans think “Congress is capable of handling the investigation” and should appoint a special prosecutor, according to the results of a CNN/ORC poll published earlier this month.

Speaking to the Journal, Mr. Reed said the CIA believes Russians used hacking, disinformation and propaganda to wage “a comprehensive and high-level campaign that was focused on disrupting our election.”

“Their conclusions are based on sources. Individual, different ways they gather intelligence and the methods of gathering intelligence … that they do not want to disclose,” he told the newspaper.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence in January that the Russian government waged an influence campaign last year aimed at disrupting Mrs. Clinton’s White House bid. Mr. Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, told Congress on Monday that their conclusion has not since changed.

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