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Schumer on Bipartisan Russia Hacking Probe: 'I Don't Want This to Turn Into a Benghazi Investigation'

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WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain (R-Ariz.) and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) together vowed this morning to conduct a thorough bipartisan probe into a CIA report that concluded Russia was behind election hacks in order to influence the outcome of the presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’s on board.

McCain told CBS that he “can’t reach that conclusion yet” about Russia’s intentions, “which is why we need a bipartisan effort to uncover the whole situation.”

“There’s no doubt about the hacking… my campaign in 2008 was hacked into. So there’s no doubt about the hacking. Then the question is about the intention. But it’s all part of the larger issue of the cyber threat we face from Russia, China and other countries. It’s another form of warfare. And the entire issue is gonna be examined by the Armed Services Committee because it’s a threat to our national security,” the senator said.

McCain said he’s “very appreciative” that Schumer is on board with a bipartisan investigation, as well as the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

“Look, we don’t wanna point a finger,” Schumer said. “And I don’t want this to turn into a Benghazi investigation which seemed, at least to many people, highly political. This is serious stuff. When a foreign power tries to influence our election or damage our economy, for that matter — this is serious. It’s gotten worse. And a bipartisan investigation that’s not aimed at one specific instance but looks at the broad scope of it is just what’s needed.”

Schumer said he hadn’t received briefings yet, but with reports that the FBI couldn’t conclusively say whether the hacking was done to benefit Trump “we need to get to the bottom of this in a fair, nonpartisan, non-finger pointing way.”

“This is something that should unite Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, patriots,” he added. “People who care about this country.”

Schumer, McCain, Reed and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a joint statement over the weekend stressing that they have an “obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society.”

The senators added they “will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”

Schumer said this morning he has “a lot of faith” in McCain to lead the investigation.

“You know, a few years ago there was hacking but people thought, Oh this is some random individual. American or oversees. Now we’re finding– we’re pretty clear it’s governments behind it. And it’s not just the Russian government. It’s Iran,” added the top Senate Dem, who voted against the P5+1 Iran deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters at a press conference this morning that McCain and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) are “more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter.”

“The Obama administration for eight years attempted to reset relations with Russia and sat back while Russia expanded its sphere of influence, intervened in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Syria and attempted to bully the Baltic countries. It defies belief that somehow Republicans in the Senate are reluctant to either review Russian tactics or ignore them,” McConnell said.

Pressed on the issue, he added, “Let me speak for myself. The Russians are not our friends.”

“Invaded Crimea, Senator McCain and I and some of our Democratic friends met with the delegation from the Baltic countries just this past week to say that they’re nervous about the Russians, to put it mildly,” he said. “…And I hope that those who are going to be in positions of responsibility in the new administration share my view.”