Wall Street Journal: Democratic Senators Seek Formal Russian Hacking Assessment

Congressional pressure for additional information on potential Russian interference in the U.S. election is growing, with a group of Democratic senators asking President Barack Obama’s administration for a formal intelligence assessment on the situation by Inauguration Day.

Nine Senate Democrats have asked the Director of National Intelligence to provide what is called a National Intelligence Estimate by Jan. 20, the day that President-elect Donald Trump is expected to take the oath of office.

Such documents, which are classified, represent the collective judgment of all 16 of the nation’s intelligence agencies. The senators are also asking for an unclassified summary of the agency’s judgments for potential public release.

The signatories include Sen. Dirk Durbin (Ill.), who is the number two Democrat in the Senate, Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and Ben Cardin (Md.), top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Other Democrats on the letter include Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Gary Peters (Mich.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Ed Markey (Mass.).

“Direct and deliberate interference in our election is an unprecedented breach and threat to U.S. democracy and national security—it is absolutely critical that information about these matters be disclosed to the public and to Congress,” the senators wrote to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In a separate request to the Department of Justice, the same group of senators also asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to inform Congress whether a criminal investigation was underway and to open one if no investigation is in progress.

It’s unclear if a formal intelligence assessment could be put together in such a short period of time. Such documents often take months, involving negotiation between different agencies. Mr. Obama has already ordered his intelligence agencies to investigate foreign hacking activity in the most recent election and other past campaigns.

Mr. Trump has cast doubt on a secret assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency that the Russian government directed cyberattacks and document thefts against Democrats with the intention to benefiting Mr. Trump.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” his transition operation said in a statement last week, referring to the flawed intelligence that led to the Iraq War.

Separately, a group of leading House Democrats also joined the call for a special investigation in Congress on the issue made up of a bipartisan panel. Republican leaders in Congress have backed the idea of a probe into Russian interference but want the House and Senate intelligence committees to conduct the probe.

Those who signed on included the top Democrats on the Armed Services, Oversight, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees.

“Given the gravity of these unprecedented attacks by a foreign state, we need a congressional investigation that is truly bipartisan, that is comprehensive, that will not be restricted by jurisdictional lines, and that will give the American people a complete and full accounting of what happened consistent with safeguarding our national security,” the members said.

Source: Wall Street Journal