- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sen. Lindsey Graham implored President-elect Donald Trump Sunday to change his tune and punish Russians accused of interfering in the U.S. election, reasoning that the real estate mogul is hesitant to delve into what happened because it would undermine his legitimacy on the cusp of his inauguration.

Mr. Graham said there is no doubt that Russians were behind the hacks of Democratic emails revealed during the campaign, so Mr. Trump should make aggressive moves to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“You can’t go on with your life as a democracy when a foreign entity is trying to compromise the election process. So Mr. President-elect, it is very important that you show leadership here,” the South Carolina Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lose the election and clearly preferred Mr. Trump, according to its assessment report released Friday.

Russian intelligence had access to the Democratic National Committee’s network from July 2015 through at least June 2016, with its military intelligence service compromising Democratic Party officials’ email accounts between March and May of 2016, the U.S. agencies said.

Russian intelligence then had the information shared through WikiLeaks and other online leakers, the U.S. agencies said.

Mr. Trump, who has questioned the U.S.’ version of events, was briefed on the report Friday and afterward released a statement that seemed to spread blame around.

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” he said.

Mr. Trump also said that, as president, he will form a task force to make recommendations about how to defend against cyberattacks, though he insisted the hacking did not affect the election results.

“Here’s the deal for me,” Mr. Graham said. “I think he’s worried that inquiring into what Russia did in the election is going to undermine his credibility and his legitimacy. Quite frankly, I haven’t heard any Democrat at all of prominence say that we doubt that Donald Trump won.”

“Putin’s not the reason that Clinton lost and Trump won. I don’t think anybody’s saying that,” he said. “So Mr. President-elect, that’s not what we’re trying to do. What we’re trying to do is find out what the Russians did in our elections and make sure that other people including the Russians won’t do it next time.”

Mr. Graham prodded the incoming president to target Mr. Putin more aggressively, saying that intelligence has revealed that Russia was behind the hacks — not some teenager or 300-pound guy at home, as Mr. Trump once suggested (though the mogul referred to a 400-pounder).

The senator and his congressional compadre — Arizona Sen. John McCain — said intelligence communities have been wrong before, namely in the run-up to the Iraq War, but that this intelligence appears to be solid.

Mr. McCain said the cyber threat extends beyond elections, so it is time to push back.

“It is across the board, including military secrets that we have, including the ability to shut down satellites, including the ability to shut down power plants,” he said. “I mean, they can do grave danger to the United States of America. We never tried to do anything like that.”

The Arizona Republican said he wishes that Mr. Trump could have visited Eastern Europe with them, to see the anxiety-filled fallout from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursions into eastern Ukraine.

“They have slaughtered Ukrainians. They have dismembered a country,” Mr. McCain said. “And I don’t think they are through. And they’ve done so in violation of all international norms of behavior. And they’re putting strains on the post-World War II new world order, the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

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