Pressure mounted on Sunday for a broader congressional investigation of Russian cyber-attacks aimed at influencing the United States election, even as President-elect Donald J Trump team says there was no conclusive evidence of foreign interference.
The effort was being led by a bipartisan group of senators, including John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, who called on Sunday for the creation of a Senate select committee on cyber-activity to take the investigative lead on Capitol Hill.
“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” the senators wrote on Sunday in a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has said a select committee is not necessary. “Cybersecurity is the ultimate cross-jurisdictional challenge, and we must take a comprehensive approach to meet this challenge effectively.”
The developments served to deepen the fissures between high-ranking lawmakers of both parties who see US intelligence reports implicating Russia as the basis for additional inquiries and Mr. Trump, who continues to reject conclusions of those reports.
But the developments also put new strain on McConnell. He now faces calls from McCain and Lindsey Graham, two Senate Republicans considered well versed on national security issues, to form a select committee. If he were to reject that appeal, he would be subject to criticism that he was trying to avoid a spotlight on an issue that senators in both parties believe is worthy of more focused scrutiny.
McConnell said last week that while he respects the intelligence agencies’ conclusions, the Senate Intelligence Committee is “more than capable of conducting a complete review” itself. He also acknowledged that McCain could conduct an investigation on the Armed Services Committee, an option that remains open should McConnell decide against a select committee.
Those divisions, coming as the Electoral College prepares to meet on Monday to ratify Mr. Trump’s election and the president-elect completes his cabinet choices, all but ensured that the issue would cloud the first months of Mr. Trump’s presidency, when he will be asking Congress to approve an aggressive legislative agenda.
Several permanent congressional committees have already been tasked with examining various aspects of the Russian interference, which has been largely accepted as fact by most members of Congress.
But in their letter on Sunday, the lawmakers argued the issue was too important and complicated for an existing committee to take on properly.
“We share your respect for, and deference to, the regular order of the Senate, and we recognize that this is an extraordinary request,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “However, we believe it is justified by the extraordinary scope and scale of the cyber problem.”
In addition to undertaking a “comprehensive investigation of Russian interference,” the senators recommended that such a committee also develop “comprehensive recommendations and, as necessary, new legislation to modernize our nation’s laws, governmental organization, and related practices to meet this challenge.”