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Durbin: Powell, O’Connor Commission Should Investigate Russia's Election Interference

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called for Congress to establish an “independent commission” led by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to investigate Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other entities during the presidential election.

Durbin said Powell and O’Connor would be “perfect” co-chairs of the commission, which would also investigate any possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia in addition to cyberintrusions. The emails obtained from the hacks were posted by the website WikiLeaks.

“I think that an independent commission is in order. We should pick some person or persons to chair or co-chair who are above reproach and integrity: General Colin Powell comes to my mind and Sandra Day O’Connor – perfect co-chairs for this serious investigation,” the Senate minority whip said during a discussion at the Center For American Progress on Tuesday. “An independent commission, my preference, which is led by people with unquestionable integrity can get to the bottom of it.”

Durbin said he is “concerned” about Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), nominee for attorney general, taking the investigation “seriously” and being “independent” of the White House.

According to Durbin, Sessions informed him he has not yet read the classified or unclassified version of the Jan. 6 intelligence community assessment on Russia’s influence campaign during the presidential election campaign.

“As Bill Moyers recently wrote, we cannot afford to wait 50 years for history to judge. We need the truth about Trump and Russia now,” Durbin said.

Making his case for an independent commission to investigate Russia’s activities, Durbin said, “Election Day 2016 is a day that will live in cyber infamy. A foreign adversary intentionally manipulated America’s presidential election. It’s an act of cyber war and it cannot go unanswered.”

Durbin took issue with Trump sparing Russian President Vladimir Putin from a critical “tweet storm” on his Twitter account unlike others including Meryl Streep, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the press and the cast of “Hamilton.”

“He’s attacking everyone except the perpetrator – a threat to the United States whose friendship seems oddly and dangerously important to the new president, especially in light of Putin’s actions around the world,” he said.

Durbin argued that the need for an investigation is “bigger than one election or one person.”

“This is about our national security and we should take it seriously,” he said.

Durbin noted that Russia has still not been “held accountable” for its role in separatists shooting down a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane flying over Ukraine in 2014. Dutch prosecutors concluded a Russian missile system smuggled from and back to Russia brought down the flight, killing 298.

Durbin said Congress should consider passing the bipartisan Russian sanctions bill he sponsored in the Senate. Durbin remains doubtful that Russia would team up with the U.S. to fight ISIS in Syria.

“Russia has been a shameful bystander in the fight against ISIS,” he said.