Top Dems Seek Full Congress Briefing on Russian Election Hacks

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Patrick Semansky/AP

A whole-of-Congress classified briefing is necessitated by the threat the hacks pose to Democratic institutions, the top national security Democrats write.

Obama administration intelligence officials should give a classified briefing to all members of Congress on Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, the House’s top national security Democrats said Tuesday in a letter to President Barack Obama.

The rare full congressional briefing is necessary because of the threat to Democratic process posed by the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee and possible probing of state election networks, according to the letter from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and ranking members of the chamber’s national security committees.

“The integrity of democracy must never be in question, and we are gravely concerned that Russia may have succeeded in weakening Americans’ trust in our electoral institutions through their cyber activity,” the members write.

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The briefing request comes a day before Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the House oversight committee, and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee’s CIA panel, plan to introduce legislation “to take action on evidence of foreign interference” in the election.

Cummings also signed the letter seeking a full congressional briefing on election meddling, along with House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers, D-Mich., Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash.

Homeland Security and intelligence leaders publicly attributed the election official hacks to the Russian government in October but said there isn’t sufficient evidence to attribute the state system probing or to verify whether Russia was responsible for passing breached information to WikiLeaks.

The election system probing did curtail, however, after the U.S. government called the Russian government out, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers in November.

“By eroding Americans’ and foreigners’ trust in U.S. institutions, Russia both weakens our country and sows global instability and uncertainty,” the letter states. “Both present a boon for Russia and a loss for those working to maintain peace and prosperity around the world through the leadership of the United States and its allies.”