Democrats call for independent commission to investigate Russian election interference

By Sarah D. Wire, Contact Reporter

House and Senate Democrats are urging colleagues to back the creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission to study Russian attempts to influence the election.

No Republicans have signed on to the House or Senate legislation to create the commission, but Democrats said they are hoping some colleagues were swayed by Thursday's testimony from three U.S. spy chiefs that the Kremlin’s most senior leaders approved a Russian intelligence operation aimed at interfering in the U.S. presidential race .

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of Dublin, Calif., said the commission would “get to the bottom once and for all as to who was responsible, how we were so vulnerable, and make a promise to the American people, through recommendations, that we will never, ever let this happen again.”

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly challenged the conclusion of the intelligence community. A declassified report released by the intelligence agencies Friday states that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help Trump win the presidency, but doesn't say whether interference actually helped Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are pushing for an aggressive investigation in Congress of Russian cyberattacks during the presidential race. It was during a hearing called by McCain when the spy chiefs testified on Russia's involvement.

Republican leaders have resisted calls for creation of a separate special committee – or an independent panel like the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland said Monday that congressional investigations are important, but that the kind of independent, nonpartisan commission Democrats are proposing would be made up of national experts who would give credibility to the panel's findings.

The House and Senate bills are backed by nearly all of California's 41 Democrats in Congress.

Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who was the ranking member of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said an independent investigation would reduce finger-pointing or accusations of partisan goals.

“The last thing I want is for us to get bogged down in politics; this is just far too important,” Cummings said. “It’s not about Donald Trump, it’s not about Hillary Clinton, it’s not about Republicans, Independents or Democrats. It’s not even about 2016. It’s about our future. We cannot allow foreign attacks on our electoral process to become normal or inevitable.”