WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump may have belittled the conclusions of the CIA that Russians hacked the presidential election in Trump’s favor, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) backed congressional investigations into the matter Monday.
“Any foreign breach of our cyber-security measures is disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill.
While he did not address Trump’s criticism of the intelligence community directly, he did offer a full-throated endorsement of America’s intelligence agencies.
“I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community, especially the central intelligence agencies,” McConnell said. “The CIA is filled with selfless patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people.”
McConnell also offered an implicit warning to Republican Trump backers who might want to criticize the CIA for its findings, and to Democrats who might accuse the broader GOP of siding with foreign hackers.
“It defies belief that somehow Republicans in the Senate are reluctant to either review Russian tactics, or ignore them,” McConnell said.
He added that the investigation will be done through the regular order in the Senate, with the Intelligence Committee headed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), as well as the Armed Services Committee, headed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who called for probes over the weekend.
Democrats hailed McConnell’s support for the probes, and echoed his call to avoid making the investigations partisan.
“This issue should not and must not turn into a political football,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “It’s absolutely essential that this investigation be bipartisan, wide-ranging, and have access to all of the relevant intelligence so that we can find out how this happened, and how we can stop it from happening ever again.”
While Trump has spoken approvingly of President Vladimir Putin and Russia often, and talked of NATO being less important, McConnell made clear he had a very different opinion, on both fronts.
“The Russians are not our friends ― invaded Crimea,” McConnell said.
“Let me also say as I’ve said last year, NATO is important. We intend to keep the commitments that are made in the NATO agreement, which I think by any objective standards, has probably been one of the most, if not the most, successful military alliance in world history,” McConnell added. “I think we ought to approach all of these issues on the assumption that the Russians do not wish us well.”
This post has been updated with McConnell’s comments on NATO.