House Democrats Want Panel to Probe Election-Related Hacks

WASHINGTON (CQ-Roll Call/TNS) -
hacking

House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a plan to create a commission to investigate foreign interference in the presidential election while taking care to note the effort was not a protest against President-elect Donald Trump’s victory.

A bill by Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Elijah Cummings of Maryland would create a 12-member panel made up of foreign policy, intelligence and election experts to examine attempts by the Russian government to influence the result. The commission would issue a report and make recommendations within 18 months of its creation.

Members of the commission would be chosen by the top four members of House and Senate leadership, who would each pick three people to serve.

While the intention is to create a bipartisan panel, Republicans have yet to respond, Swalwell said. Members said the commission would also handle whatever reprimands, if any, are possible.

“First of all, we want to figure out what happened,” said Cummings, the ranking Democrat on House Oversight and Government Reform.

Democrats want the commission to take up the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman; and messages from former Secretary of State Colin Powell about Clinton. The panel would also look into efforts from overseas to promote fake news about the U.S. election.

“It would be congressional malpractice if we did not look into this,” Cummings said. “I don’t want it to become normal for things like this to happen.”

Swalwell said the creation of the panel should not be seen as a protest against the outcome of the election that sent Trump to the White House.

“We accept the outcome of the election,” Swalwell said. “[What] we do not accept is that we should leave ourselves vulnerable to this happening again.”

Trump has questioned Russia’s involvement in influencing the election results and has dismissed a conclusion by intelligence officials that the hacks were “consistent with the methods and motivation of Russian-directed efforts.”

On Tuesday, a group of Democrats, including Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking administration officials to brief Congress on Russian efforts to interfere with the presidential election.

“The integrity of democracy must never be in question, and we are gravely concerned that Russia may have succeeded in weakening Americans’ trust in our electoral institutions through their cyber activity, which may also include sponsoring disclosures through WikiLeaks and other venues, and the production and distribution of fake news stories,” the lawmakers wrote.