Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Thursday that in her 15 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee — including six years as chairwoman and two years as the vice chairwoman — she’s “never seen a more specific top-level briefing with statements of high confidence when questions were asked” as lawmakers received on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Feinstein told CNN that “it’s clear to me that this is a very serious situation” and President Obama should issue a public report on the “major covert influence campaign” by Moscow at the “soonest time possible.”
She emphasized that committee members can’t elaborate much in public on what they heard in briefings, but said her beliefs on Russia’s guilt are “a product of those briefings.”
“It was foreign espionage on critical infrastructure… this kind of behavior is not new to Russia. What is new and is how this was done, who was involved, what the cut-outs were and how the whole thing was put together, and what was released by the Russians and what wasn’t,” she added. “…It’s hard to believe that a country’s intelligence services could go ahead with this without the knowledge and assent of the leader, because this is the man that leads all things in Russia.”
The senator noted reports that a handful of House races may have been affected. “This is really serious because this strikes at the basis of a free democratic system and its ability to conduct a fair election,” she said.
Feinstein said she believes it’s “highly likely” Hillary Clinton’s campaign was targeted because “much of what was collected on the other side of the aisle was never released.”
“What I believe is the intent was to dirty up Clinton and make it more difficult — I think most people believed that Hillary Clinton would win the election and to throw as much of a monkey wrench into it as was possible by the release of this kind of information in places where it would do her harm,” she said.
Asked what kind of proportional response, in the words of the White House, could be directed at Russia, Feinstein replied, “I wouldn’t want to suggest one on television.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is a member of President-elect Trump’s transition team, said Wednesday that intelligence community agencies turned down a request to brief his committee Thursday on the latest reports surrounding Russian culpability.
“It is unacceptable… the legislative branch is constitutionally vested with oversight responsibility of executive branch agencies, which are obligated to comply with our requests,” Nunes said. “The Committee is vigorously looking into reports of cyber-attacks during the election campaign, and in particular we want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us.”
“The Committee is deeply concerned that intransigence in sharing intelligence with Congress can enable the manipulation of intelligence for political purposes,” he added.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that senior administration officials “have regularly provided extensive, detailed classified and unclassified briefings to members and staff from both parties on Capitol Hill since this past summer and have continued to do so after Election Day.”
“Last week, the president ordered a full Intelligence Community review of foreign efforts to influence recent presidential elections – from 2008 to present. Once the review is complete in the coming weeks, the Intelligence Community stands ready to brief Congress—and will make those findings available to the public consistent with protecting intelligence sources and methods. We will not offer any comment until the review is complete.”