Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called on his colleagues in Congress Tuesday to investigate Russia’s purported use of cyberattacks to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
Mr. Graham was speaking with reporters in Washington, D.C., when he suggested lawmakers hold a series of hearings on “Russia’s misadventures throughout the world,” citing specifically Moscow’s widely reported use of computer intrusions and email leaks in the lead-up to Republican candidate Donald Trump defeating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for the presidency.
“Were they involved in cyberattacks that had a political component to it in our elections?” Mr. Graham asked, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Assuming for a moment that we do believe that the Russian government was controlling outside organizations that hacked into our election, they should be punished,” The Huffington Post quoted the senator as saying. “Putin should be punished.”
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security said in joint-statement last month that the Obama administration believes the Kremlin ordered hackers to infiltrate the Democratic National Committee and various individuals and entities tied to Mrs. Clinton’s party, then turned over their findings to websites including WikiLeaks for publications.
Cybersecurity researchers have since tied the actors believed to be responsible for those intrusions with a similar assault waged against John Podesta, the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, prior to his private correspondence being released by the antisecrecy website.
“Here’s what I would tell Republicans: We cannot sit on the sidelines as a party and let allegations against a foreign government interfering in our election process go unanswered because it may have been beneficial to our cause,” Mr. Graham said, L.A. Times reported.
“Clearly me and the Donald have issues, and I will do everything I can to help him because he will be commander in chief in dangerous times,” the senator continued, adding: “I worry about Russia.”
“I want a good relationship with Russia, but things have to substantially change. He is the president of the United States, and he is the leading diplomat for the country, but Congress has a role,” Mr. Graham said.
Mr. Graham unsuccessfully fought to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president prior to suspending his campaign in December 2015, and he became one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics on Capitol Hill in the months afterward.
“If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it,” the senator tweeted in May.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied directing cyberattacks against U.S. targets and has accused Washington of blaming Moscow in order to increase anti-Russian sentiments.