Suspected Russian vote meddling to get ‘close look’
White House heeds plea of Senate Democrats who claim new information
The White House said Thursday that it would review a request by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to make public new information pointing to Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, but it hasn’t changed the administration’s view that Donald Trump’s victory was free of tampering.
“We’ll certainly take quite seriously the concerns that they’ve raised and the requests that they have made,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “And we’ll take a close look at it.”
But he noted that U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security “did not observe an increase in malicious cyberactivity on Election Day from the Russians that was directed at disrupting the casting or counting of ballots.”
“I think if that is something that had occurred, we probably would have spent a lot more time talking about it over the last three weeks,” he said.
Seven Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday, asking the administration to declassify more information about Russia’s suspected interference in the U.S. presidential election.
“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public,” said the lawmakers, led by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. “We are conveying specifics through classified channels.”
The administration accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party operations and email accounts in an effort to disrupt the presidential election. It said there was also evidence of hacking earlier this year into states’ election systems.
Democrats also have accused Mr. Trump of having a cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting the hacking was part of an effort by Moscow to sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. Mr. Trump has strongly rejected claims of any ties with Russia or Mr. Putin, nor has he blamed Russia for the hacking.
National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers has said he doesn’t believe the publicizing of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee changed the outcome of the presidential election. But the controversy has persisted while Green Party candidate Jill Stein is funding recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the presidential contest was close.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, renewed her call Wednesday for a Senate hearing to examine the foreign policy implications of Russia’s interference in the election.
“These Russian actions are unprecedented in our post-Cold War relationship,” she told the top Republicans and Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee. “The seriousness of Russia’s behavior and its relevance to the Foreign Relations Committee merit a full committee hearing on this issue, perhaps supplemented by a classified briefing.”
Mr. Obama’s spokesman said the administration has cooperated with congressional oversight on the matter, and he expressed hope that the incoming Trump administration will do the same.
“What was true before the election is that there was a conclusion that was reached by the intelligence community that there were a variety of malicious efforts undertaken by Russia in cyberspace that were aimed at trying to disrupt or destabilize or shake the American people’s confidence in our political system,” Mr. Earnest said. “And that’s not an insignificant matter. And it certainly was treated quite seriously and has been treated quite seriously by this administration.”
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and other Democrats say information about Moscow and the U.S. election should be classified and released to the public.