WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced legislation Wednesday to create an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The commission would fully investigate Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political entities and election infrastructure and any other attempts by the Russian government to influence U.S. elections, 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.
The legislation 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, outgoing vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee and incoming Ranking Member of the Judiciary 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, the outgoing Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and incoming Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee. “I commend the Obama administration for responding last week to this assault on our democracy, and for releasing additional information to help protect America against Russian hacking. Now we need an accounting – a serious, independent, and bipartisan investigation of attempted Russian interference in the American presidential election. This is larger than any one candidate or any one election. We must ensure our elections are protected from foreign influence.”
“Every American, regardless of party affiliation, should be alarmed that a foreign power would interfere in and attempt to undermine the free and fair elections that are the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Senator Carper, outgoing Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “The American people deserve a comprehensive, transparent and nonpartisan investigation into the full extent of attempts to interfere in our elections, including the use of targeted cyber attacks against political groups and individuals, and dissemination of false news stories. The creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission will allow us to get to the bottom of Russia’s unprecedented actions and ensure that similar interference can never happen again.”
“Russian interference in our election is a threat to our democracy and our security and cannot be tolerated. This is not about one party, one election, or even one country. Russia has a pattern of waging cyberattacks against democracies across the world. Last week, I travelled to the Baltics, Ukraine, and Georgia to hear firsthand about the threat that Russia poses to our Eastern European allies,” said Senator Klobuchar, a member of the Judiciary Committee. “The presidents and prime ministers of these countries made it clear that Russia uses cyberattacks to destabilize their democracies. In order to push back on Russian aggression, we need to know more about the attacks. That’s why I fully support an independent, nonpartisan investigation into Russian hacking in order to uncover all the facts and make sure future elections are safeguarded from foreign interference.”
- Establishes the Commission to End Russian Interference in United States Elections (the “Commission”), which 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 nonpartisan, 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.