'The Russians are not our friends': McConnell backs calls for probe after reports of Russian effort to influence election

Mitch McConnellScreenshot/C-SPANMitch McConnell.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he “strongly” condemns any Russian efforts to influence the presidential election, adding that he backs a congressional probe into Russia’s involvement in the hacking of emails from US political organisations.

“Obviously, any foreign breach of our cybersecurity measures is disturbing and I strongly condemn any such efforts,” he said at a press conference.

The Kentucky Republican said the Senate Intelligence Committee is “more than capable” of conducting an investigation into the matter.

McConnell also pushed back against claims that Senate Republicans would be “reluctant to review Russian tactics or ignore them.”

“The Russians are not our friends,” he said, noting the President Barack Obama’s administration attempted to reset Russian relations and “sat back” as the country expanded its “sphere of influence.”

McConnell issued his statement after bombshell Washington Post and New York Times stories from Friday revealed an assessment by the CIA concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump’s presidential bid.

According to the Post report, McConnell openly expressed doubts about the veracity of the intelligence during a secret briefing for congressional leaders in September about Russian meddling in the election, officials present at the meeting said.

Internal emails from members of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, the chairman of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, were leaked online throughout the campaign, and Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said one month before the election that officials were “confident” the Russian government directed hacks on US political organisations.

President-elect Donald Trump has expressed repeated scepticism about whether Russia interfered in the election, and whether they did so in hopes of having him elected.

On Monday, Trump claimed that if Republicans had made the accusation after Clinton won the presidency, it would be viewed as a “conspiracy theory”

And during a Monday conference call with reporters, Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said the congressional probe is “an attempt to delegitimize President-elect Trump’s win.”

When the reports first broke on Friday, Trump sought to delegitimize the CIA, saying that they were the same agency that said deposed Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction

McConnell made a point of expressing “the highest confidence” in the agency, which he said “has filled itself with patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people.”

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