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Congressional Republicans knew about Russian attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election as those efforts were ongoing and chose to do nothing about them for fear of hurting the electoral chances of President-elect Donald Trump, former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin said Wednesday.
“Look, the truth is it’s been very obvious for leaders in Washington on the Republican side that the Russians have been undermining our democracy, or did undermine our democracy,” McMullin said at an event hosted by POLITICO Wednesday morning. “I know because I know for a fact that they know this. It was a topic of discussion during the election and they chose not to stand up.”
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McMullin ran for president as an independent, conservative alternative to Trump, who won the Republican presidential nomination despite lacking traditional conservative bona fides. Before jumping into the race last August, he was the chief policy director for Republicans in the House of Representatives and before that, was an operations officer in the CIA.
In a report released last October, the U.S. intelligence community stated that Russia had attempted to interfere with the American election process, launching cyberattacks against political targets. Trump has refused to concede the intelligence community’s assessment and has sought to push back against a CIA assessment that Russia launched its hacking efforts in an attempt to boost the president-elect’s candidacy.
Russian cyberattacks, which hacked into the email systems of the Democratic National Committee as well as politically influential individuals, were just part of the Kremlin’s efforts, according to McMullin. He said Republicans in Congress were aware that the Russian government also sought to undermine Americans’ faith in the election process and bolster Trump through RT America, the Kremlin-owned cable news station. Congressional Republicans also knew about online accounts created by the Russian government that backed Trump and attacked those who did not.
“They understood what was happening and they understood that that was probably only the tip of the iceberg,” McMullin said. “As a former intelligence officer, it’s hard to overstate how alarming this is and how alarming it should be.”
“We now have the intelligence agencies who have taken, candidly, their sweet time in coming out to say ‘yes, indeed Russia did attempt to undermine our elections, to influence our election’ and then more recently, you know, the reported CIA assessment that they did it on behalf of Donald Trump or to support Donald Trump, which I think, again, is obvious and not something we should need the CIA to tell us, based on all the other information we have.”
McMullin was especially troubled by Trump’s decision to nominate for secretary of state ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has close business ties to Russia and was awarded the Russian “Order of Friendship” by President Vladimir Putin. McMullin said Tillerson “is a predictable pick” because he is “somebody who will not stand up to what Donald Trump intends to do, which is a realignment, a strategic realignment of the United States with Russia.”
Members of both political parties on Capitol Hill have called for an investigation into Russia’s efforts to meddle in last month’s election, and McMullin said he has more faith in the Senate than he does in the House when it comes to those investigations. He said specifically that he trusts Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and that more lawmakers should join them in investigating Russian interference. He said the issue should be bipartisan and should get more attention from the media, lines that earned him applause from the audience.
“This is what Russia does in Europe and has done with effect. The Republicans are sticking their heads in the sand on this issue as they did during the campaign,” McMullin said. “I will tell you, this is not a new issue. They knew during the campaign that this was happening and they chose not to say anything because they knew it would harm them politically. That is the issue, the sacrifice of principle for power, the sacrifice of the country’s interests for the party’s interests.”
Published at Wed, 14 Dec 2016 15:49:49 +0000