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McConnell Says Intelligence Committee Can Handle Russia Hacking Investigation

Notes Schumer will soon join the leadership getting special briefings

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his confidence in the U.S. intelligence community after President-elect Donald Trump had questioned it. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his confidence in the U.S. intelligence community after President-elect Donald Trump had questioned it. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that “the Russians are not our friends,” but he does not see a need for a special panel to probe reported Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee, on which I and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee sit as ex-officio members, is more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter,” McConnell told reporters. “Sen. Schumer will soon join us on the committee, and he can review this matter through the regular order.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the incoming minority leader, will be joining what has been referred to as the “Gang of Eight” — the leaders of the House and Senate as well as of the Intelligence committees in each chamber.

In a statement following McConnell’s news conference, Schumer said Democrats welcomed McConnell’s support of a bipartisan investigation.

“This issue should not and must not turn into a political football. It’s absolutely essential that this investigation be bipartisan, wide-ranging, and have access to all of the relevant intelligence so that we can find out how this happened, and how we can stop it from happening ever again,” Schumer said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, Schumer told “CBS This Morning” that he didn’t want any efforts to “turn into a Benghazi investigation,” referring to the highly politicized investigation into what Hillary Clinton knew about the attack on the U.S. compound in Libya while she was secretary of State.

“This is serious stuff. When a foreign power tries to influence our election or damage our economy for that matter, this is serious, it’s gotten worse. And a bipartisan investigation that’s not aimed at one specific instance, but looks at the broad scope of this is just what’s needed,” the New York Democrat told CBS. “You have the CIA saying one thing. I haven’t gotten the briefings yet, I’m not yet minority leader. The FBI something else. We need to get to the bottom of this in a fair, nonpartisan, non-finger pointing way.”

Somewhat uncharacteristically, McConnell opened an end-of-the-year news conference by reading from a prepared statement, anticipating scrutiny from reporters about a Washington Post report that said he raised doubts about the CIA’s intelligence on Russia’s interest in meddling with the U.S. election to benefit Republican Donald Trump (now the president-elect).

“I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA is filled with selfless patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people,” McConnell said.

McConnell said he was supportive of the inquiry being planned by Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., about cybersecurity capabilities, which McCain said last week would include the 2016 election.

“We need to integrate our cyber capabilities into our overall war fighting doctrine,” McConnell said.

McCain joined Schumer during the appearance Monday on “CBS News This Morning.”

“I can’t reach that conclusion yet which is why we need a bipartisan effort to uncover the whole situation. There’s no doubt about the hacking, let’s establish that… Then the question is about the intention. But it’s all part of the larger issue of the cyber threat we face from Russia and other countries,” McCain said. It’s another form of warfare and the entire issue is going to be examined by the armed services committee because it’s a threat to our national security.”

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