SENATORS CALL FOR NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE OF RUSSIAN TAMPERING IN U.S. ELECTION, REQUEST CONFIRMATION OF JUSTICE DEPT. INVESTIGATION
In letters to Director James Clapper, Attorney General Lynch, Senators push Administration on Russian hacks
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Ed Markey (D-MA) today called for a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to determine the extent of Russian intervention in the 2016 United States presidential election, accompanied by an unclassified summary of its key judgments by January 20th, 2017. An NIE is the formal, authoritative assessment of the Director of National Intelligence related to a particular national security issue, which reflects the collective judgment of the nation’s sixteen intelligence agencies.
The senators also called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to publicly confirm that nonpartisan career Justice Department officials are conducting a criminal investigation into the matter, and if not, to open one immediately. On Friday, the Washington Post reportedthat the CIA concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the election to assist Donald Trump.
“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 said. “We strongly support calls for bipartisan investigations by Congress—this issue requires the full attention of the executive and legislative branches alike, and a conclusive, public national intelligence estimate will lay out the facts for the American people. The public also needs transparency and reassurance that federal law enforcement is actively investigating these matters and that, if the investigation finds evidence that Russian officials perpetrated or directed such acts, appropriate criminal charges will be announced.”
Full text of the senators’ letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
December 13, 2016
The Honorable James Clapper
Director of National Intelligence
Washington, D.C. 20511
Dear Director Clapper:
We request an immediate National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding Russian efforts to manipulate the recent U.S. presidential election, including public release of its key judgments no later than January 20, 2017. Recently disclosed U.S. intelligence findings as publicly reported that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election and sought to undermine our democratic institutions – and the consequences thereof (including possible future such attacks on the United States) – are deeply concerning. They make it imperative that information be provided to the public and Congress. Quite simply, deliberate interference in our election to favor a particular candidate is an unprecedented breach and threat to U.S. democracy and national security.
On Saturday, December 10, 2016, the Washington Post reported that the CIA concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help a particular candidate win the election. It further reported that U.S. intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair. Russia was also reported to have had a role in cyber intrusions in at least two U.S. state election systems. These were described as individuals or actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost one candidate over the other. The Post quoted a senior U.S. official briefed at an intelligence presentation made to some U.S. senators as saying, “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected.” Also reported was that intelligence agency briefers told some senators as recently as last week that it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal. In fact, you were quoted in early October as saying, “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
Under President Putin, Russia has taken aggressive actions that are contrary to American interests and those of its key allies. Its military has seized land in Georgia and Ukraine and aggressively tried to sow disinformation and instability in European democracies. It plants false news, promotes a distorted and false narrative about threats to Russia and ethnic Russians in border states, funds political parties sympathetic to Russian interests, and reportedly conducts cyberattacks against key Western interests. Its proxies were recently implicated in a coup plot in Montenegro and were involved in murdering more than 300 innocent civilians in a downed commercial airline over occupied eastern Ukraine. Russian military forces have aggressively probed NATO-member airspace and waters, and conducted reckless intercepts of U.S. aircraft in international airspace. It has reportedly tried to manipulate upcoming German elections. Finally, Russian State TV host and Putin confidant Dmitry Kiselyov – also known as the Kremlin’s Chief Propagandist – warned this year that “impudent” U.S. behavior towards Russia may have “nuclear” consequences. Quite simply, Russia is determined to foster political chaos and institutional mistrust in the West and may have alarmingly succeeded in the United States.
Given the serious nature of these matters, with unprecedented national security implications, we believe that our intelligence community must prioritize a conclusive, public NIE to lay out the facts of this serious matter for the American people. Threats to our national security and the sanctity of our democratic process must not become hostage to partisanship and narrow political interests. We know that Russia continues to make a concerted effort to undermine democratic institutions in the West and we fear we have fallen victim to their agenda. Such an attack on the United States must not go undisclosed.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
Full text of the senators’ letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch:
December 13, 2016
The Honorable Loretta Lynch
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Lynch:
We urge the Department of Justice to publicly confirm that objective career Department professionals are conducting a criminal investigation into whether officials in the Russian government intervened in, or directed others to intervene in, the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help one candidate over the other. If such an investigation is not ongoing, we urge you to open one without delay.
On September 28, 2016, Director James Comey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified before the House Judiciary Committee and was asked about the Department’s standard for commenting on whether an investigation is underway. Director Comey stated that “[o]ur standard is we do not confirm or deny the existence of investigations,” but he cited examples of “exceptional circumstances” that he said justified commenting on the existence of investigations, including “when there is a need for the public to be reassured” and “where the public needed transparency.”[i]
Surely this is just such an exceptional circumstance. On December 9, the Washington Post reported that the CIA has concluded that Russia moved deliberately to help elect one candidate as president of the United States. The Post further reported that U.S. intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to Russia’s government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from one U.S. party’s national political committee and campaign chairman. Deliberate hacking of national political party and campaign staff email systems in order to tilt the election results in favor of the candidate deemed more sympathetic to Russian interests is an unprecedented breach and threat to U.S. democracy and national security. The public needs transparency and reassurance that the Department of Justice is actively investigating these matters and that, if the investigation finds evidence that Russian officials perpetrated or directed such acts, appropriate criminal charges will be announced.
The American people need to know that threats to our national security and the sanctity of our democratic process will not go unexamined and unchallenged by the Department of Justice. We must ensure that a foreign government cannot undermine our democratic institutions and elections as a means to serve its own interests. We urge you to publicly confirm that a criminal investigation into these matters is underway or will immediately be opened.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.