WASHINGTON ― Democrats on Capitol Hill are not just calling for a congressional investigation into recent reports of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but want the Justice Department to publicly say if it is pursuing a criminal probe into the matter.
Following a Washington Post report on a CIA assessment that concluded Russia had meddled in the election specifically to help President-elect Donald Trump win, Democrats exerted a full-court press on Tuesday, asking for more investigations and assessments.
A handful of House Democrats, led by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), released a statement Tuesday calling for a bipartisan congressional investigation into the hackings.
“Given the gravity of these unprecedented attacks by a foreign state, we need a congressional investigation that is truly bipartisan, that is comprehensive, that will not be restricted by jurisdictional lines, and that will give the American people a complete and full accounting of what happened consistent with safeguarding our national security,” Hoyer and ranking members on relevant House committees said.
On the Senate side, Democrats released copies of letters they’d sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and seven other Senate Democrats signed on to the letters.
“We urge the Department of Justice to publicly confirm that objective career Department professionals are conducting a criminal investigation into whether officials in the Russian government intervened in, or directed others to intervene in, the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help one candidate over the other,” the group wrote to Lynch. “If such an investigation is not ongoing, we urge you to open one without delay.”
The senators called the interference an “unprecedented breach and threat” to democracy, and an “exceptional circumstance” that warrants transparency. The DOJ does not traditionally confirm or deny the existence of such investigations, but it has done so in special cases.
“The public needs transparency and reassurance that the Department of Justice is actively investigating these matters and that, if the investigation finds evidence that Russian officials perpetrated or directed such acts, appropriate criminal charges will be announced,” the senators wrote.
In their letter to Clapper, the group called for a “conclusive, public” study.
“We request an immediate National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding Russian efforts to manipulate the recent U.S. presidential election, including public release of its key judgments no later than January 20, 2017,” the senators wrote. “Such an attack on the United States must not go undisclosed.”
Senate Republicans have said the Senate intelligence committee will investigate the issue as well, and John McCain (R-Ariz.) ― chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee ― will also be involved in conducting a probe.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is asking some questions of his own. In a letter to Clapper on Monday, Nunes demanded to know why lawmakers weren’t informed of the wide disparity in the CIA and FBI’s respective conclusions over the extent of Russia’s interference.