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Top Senate Republican dismisses importance of Russian interference with presidential election

Sen. Cornyn’s reaction? There’s no news here.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, called for more information on the FBI’s investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on July 6, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, called for more information on the FBI’s investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on July 6, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Senate’s second-highest-ranking Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, thinks everyone is making too big a deal of the news late Friday that the CIA told U.S. senators that Russia’s goal in meddling with the 2016 presidential election was to help Donald Trump.

Sen. Cornyn’s reaction? There’s no news here.

Cornyn tweeted again on this subject, referencing a book published earlier this year by Michael Hayden that evidently confirms that the CIA’s conclusion is not “news.”

Hayden, who ran the CIA for much of former President George W. Bush’s second term, said this week about Russian interference in American elections:

“To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions. Wow. The data matters. He continues to reject the Russians did it… and claims that it was politicized intelligence.”

Cornyn again weighed in on the news, replying “Hear, hear!” to a day-old Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) which said he would like to investigate not only Russian interference in the election but also “cyber-attacks, undermining NATO, Ukraine, butchery in Syria, etc.”

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This conflicts with Cornyn’s blasé response to the CIA news; it is possible to be alarmed both by foreign interference on behalf of a presidential candidate as well as their unrelated cyber warfare, foreign policy opposing NATO, and regional aggression.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not commented on the news, though he was spotted smiling and unconcerned on the senate floor as the news broke Friday night. McConnell, whose wife will be nominated by Trump to be the nation’s next transportation secretary, reportedly pushed back on intelligence about Russia’s involvement in the election during a confidential senate intelligence briefing in September.

Evan McMullin, the long-shot conservative independent presidential candidate, attacked GOP leaders for staying quiet.

Democrats have not stayed quiet, however. Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called in to MSNBC Saturday morning and pinned the blame on FBI Director Jim Comey, who famously cleared Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing regarding her use of a private email server, before doing a stutterstep a week before the election.

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Reid was on the show reacting to the CIA news and said that Comey had this information but withheld it. “The FBI had this material for a long time but Comey, who is of course a Republican, refused to divulge this information regarding Russia and the presidential election,” Reid said on MSNBC Saturday morning.

“Just to reiterate,” host Joy-Ann Reid (no relation) replied. “You believe that Jim Comey, the FBI director, had this information and deliberately withheld it from the American people before the election, is that your contention?”

Sen. Reid assented, “that’s right, that is true.”

Reid criticized Comey’s “partisan” efforts before saying that the New York Times’ decision to leave out his interview about this topic back in September was “a terrible lack in judgement.”

Democratic VP nominee Tim Kaine suggested late Friday night that the Trump transition statement impugning the credibility of the CIA means Trump’s team is “nervous about what they might find.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the incoming Senate Minority Leader, has called for a congressional inquiry into Russian interference with the election.

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“It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation,” Schumer said. “The silence from Wikileaks and others since election day has been deafening. That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core.”