WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called Monday for the creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The commission would fully investigate alleged Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political entities and election infrastructure, seek to identify those responsible, and recommend a response as well as actions the U.S. can take to defend itself in the future. Modeled on other independent commissions, this body would compile all available classified intelligence and open source information, conduct hearings and interviews, with subpoena power, and report its findings to Congress within 18 months from being formed. The membership of the commission would be individuals appointed by the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leadership.
After the White House announced it was conducting its own review into alleged Russian interference in the election late last week, reporting in The Washington Post raised serious further questions about this matter. And in October, the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that senior-level Russian officials were involved in the hacks of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
The Senators’ announcement today complements the call by bipartisan leadership in the Senate for Congressional investigations as well as support in the House of Representatives for an independent commission.
“We’ve seen what Russia can do with a MiG, but they can be equally destructive with a mouse. The American people deserve a nonpartisan, transparent, public investigation into this insidious attack on our democratic institutions,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the foundational elements of our democracy. They have been attacked and undermined by the world’s most destabilizing major power. As a nation it’s time to get to the bottom of it and learn what we can do to prevent it from ever happening again.”
“An attack against our election system is an attack on our very way of life and must not go unchallenged,” said Senator Feinstein, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We need this commission to determine if my personal belief is correct—that the real intent of what appears to be a classic Russian covert influence campaign was to harm the candidacy of the Democratic candidate or undermine our democratic system. This bipartisan commission will help identify the specific ‘actors’ responsible and recommend a possible course of action to prevent this from ever happening again.”
“For the last 20 years, as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have worked to protect the voting rights of all Americans. But the right to vote – the foundation of our democracy – is undermined if a foreign country can interfere with our democratic process,” said Senator Leahy, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It is time to rise above the fray and engage in a serious, independent, and bipartisan investigation of the allegations that the Russians interfered with the American presidential election. This is larger than any one candidate or any one election. This is about protecting our democracy now, and going forward.”
About the Commission:
- The Commission to End Russian Interference in United States Elections will conduct a comprehensive review of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
- The Commission will provide the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the U.S. public with full information regarding how alleged Russian interference may have affected the 2016 election, as well as recommendations to protect our elections going forward, so that the American people and their leaders can have faith and confidence in the integrity of our elections, our Constitution, and democratic form of government.
- The Commission will be bipartisan, with members appointed by Republican and Democratic leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of Congress would not be members of the Committee.
- The Members of the Commission would have access to all unclassified and classified information, including subpoena power, regarding all Russian activities with regards to the 2016 Presidential election.
- The Commission will produce a Report within 18 months outlining the facts of what occurred, in an unclassified form with a classified annex, and make recommendations to the Congress and Executive on appropriate actions to defend our system of elections and government, including a plan to counter Russian interference in US elections.
- Vladimir Putin has repeatedly shown the world that he aggressively seeks to undermine the sovereignty of sovereign countries, democratic institutions, and the rule of law. He is a threat to democracy, peace, security, and human rights worldwide. The Commission’s report would show how and to what extent his activities, and the activities of those who do his bidding, impact the political system of United States and the American people.