After he and fellow lawmakers including Sen. John McCain complete their current trip to the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro and convene hearings on the matter, according to the South Carolina Republican, sanctions will be meted out that “hit [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his inner circle for interfering in our election.”
The Russians, Graham went on to say, are “doing it all over the world,” including, he said, in Estonia, where he and McCain sat for an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto. That Baltic state, which like neighboring Latvia borders Russia, is “hit all the time.”
Graham, McCain want Russia sanctions after election hacking
Top Republican senators said Wednesday that the incoming Congress and President-elect Donald Trump should impose new and tougher sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Their remarks followed reports that outgoing President Obama has similar intentions.
Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain told Fox News that he wants to increase sanctions on Russia, in addition to permanently stationing U.S. soldiers in the bordering Balkan countries and further helping neighboring Ukraine against Russian aggression -- to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin knows “this kind of action in the future will be responded to.”
McCain, a Vietnam veteran and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, spoke from Latvia on a tour of the Balkan nations with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fellow Republican and retired Air Force pilot.
Graham outlined a more specific agenda and suggested Obama should end his presidency next month without taking action.
“Putin has cleaned his clock,” Graham said. “Here’s what I’d prefer: Let the new Congress and new president deal with Russia. … If I were President Trump, I’d call President Obama and say ‘Don’t start something that you cannot finish.' "
Graham, ousted by Trump from this year’s hard-hitting GOP presidential primaries, also told Fox News that he wants to put sanctions on Russia’s energy sector and on Putin and his inner circle to control their money and travel.
The senators’ call for sanctions follows news reports about the Republican-controlled House addressing the Russia hacking issue with a non-binding resolution, immediatley after being sworn in January 3.
Earlier Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration also wants to impose sanctions, in addition to a diplomatic censure and “covert action that will probably involve cyber-operations,” according to U.S. officials.
The officials also told the newspaper that the plan could be announced before the end of the week and that it attempts to revise a 2015 executive order on cyber-attacks to allow for a presidential response to influencing elections.
They also said the administration is working on a measure that Trump would not be able to undo.
U.S. officials have not denied the veracity of the Post story. And one told Fox News on Wednesday that there was “outrage” inside the U.S. intelligence community over the newspaper leak.
During this year’s election cycle, Democratic National Committee emails were hacked and leaked. And in the closing weeks of the race, WikiLeaks released troves of emails from the private account of John Podesta, the campaign chairman for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Clinton and Podesta have said the leaked emails contributed to the campaign’s defeat and have pointed fingers at the Kremlin.
The U.S. intelligence community largely concurs that Russia was involved, while the Trump team continues to try to focus efforts on hiring for the administration.
President Obama in recent days has vowed to respond to the hacking.
McCain and Graham say they don’t think the email hacks determined the outcome of the Clinton-Trump race but argue 99 of Congress’ 100 senators think Russia was involved.
Lindsey Graham: Donald Trump disagrees with Senate consensus on Russia
Two of the Senate's most prominent hardliners on Russia are framing the Washington consensus of Russian aggression as free from any disagreement whatsoever -- except from President-elect Donald Trump.
Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain, on a trip to Estonia, a Baltic nation threatened by a belligerent Russia, told CNN's Jim Sciutto in an exclusive interview that the matter was settled and that Trump was simply wrong to question the bipartisan agreement.
"There are 100 United States senators. Amy Klobuchar is on this trip with us. She's a Democrat from Minnesota. I would say that 99 of us believe the Russians did this and we're going to do something about it," said Graham, who is planning a hearing with McCain on Russia's interference with US elections. "We're going to put sanctions together that hit Putin as an individual and his inner circle for interfering in our election, and they're doing it all over the world -- not just in the United States."
McCain, Graham and Klobuchar are also headed to Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro to meet with officials about the Russian threat. The intelligence community has formally blamed the Kremlin for interfering in the most recent presidential election, using sophisticated hacking schemes and cyber intrusions to expose the emails of Democratic Party officials.
Graham and McCain were frequent critics of Trump during the campaign, and raised alarms about Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin, who Trump has praised as a "strong leader."
McCain also reiterated his worries about Rex Tillerson, the retiring ExxonMobil CEO whom Trump has chosen to lead the State Department. McCain declined to say whether there would be a confirmation showdown next month in the Senate, noting that presidents tend to have the right to pick their own advisers. But McCain said he had "concerns" about Tillerson's favorable posture toward Putin and Russia.
McCain expressed confidence, however, that Trump would "change his view" toward Russia -- and specifically their role in the cyberattacks -- once he becomes commander in chief and is "presented with the overwhelming evidence."
Some Trump positions, such as those against Iran and China, have endeared him to his party's hawks. Graham saluted those views but said that if Democrats and Republicans alike did not smack back at Putin, it would embolden the nations that Trump believes are geopolitical threats.
"If we don't push back against Putin, Iran and China -- they could hack in to our systems," Graham said. "Today it's Democrats, tomorrow it could be Republicans with the Iranians and the Chinese."