Ever since news broke that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the specific intent of helping Donald Trump to win, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has been adamant about the creation of a committee to investigate the hacking.
McCain first called for the new committee when speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper in December. McCain told Tapper:
‘We need to get to the bottom of this. There’s no doubt they were interfering. There’s no doubt. The question is now, how much and what damage? And what should the United States of America do?’
McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have also called for new sanctions against Russia in light of President Obama’s recent actions. On December 29, the two senators released a statement announcing a plan to “lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia.” The full statement reads:
‘The retaliatory measures announced by the Obama Administration today are long overdue. But ultimately, they are a small price for Russia to pay for its brazen attack on American democracy. We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia.’
Despite McCain and Graham’s dedication to creating a new committee and coming down harder on Russia, they and other senators who were on board with their plan have been thwarted by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). McCain and Graham announced today that they will not continue to push for the creation of the committee.
According to POLITICO, Graham said that, rather than creating a new committee, the Senate will simply move forward with individual committee investigations. So far, the Armed Services Committee, of which McCain is the chairman, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Intelligence Committee are all looking into Russian hacking.
Graham explained about the current situation, “We’re just going to move with the individual committees and see how that works. If it doesn’t work, we’ll regroup.”
McCain also spoke on the matter, saying that McConnell is against the idea of a new committee and would rather have the investigation led by the Intelligence Committee.
McCain said about McConnell and his opinion of the new committee, “He doesn’t think we need it.”
McCain’s decision to back down on the committee is surprising, especially since he recently called Russian hacking an “act of war.” He said:
‘When you attack a country, it’s an act of war… And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay so that we can perhaps persuade Russians to stop this kind of attack on our very fundamentals of democracy.’
While a new committee to investigate Russia’s interference will not be created any time soon, top Democrats and Republicans on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees will be meeting next week to coordinate their investigations and discuss “what each committee is doing,” Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) told POLITICO.
John McCain will also still be holding a hearing about Russian hacking later this week. The hearing will include testimony from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency and Cyber Command Chief Adm. Mike Rogers, and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre.
Featured image via Salah Malkawi/ Getty Images.