The Gang of Eight has become the Gang of Four, and it has a new mission: to undermine the president-elect.
Three members of the failed immigration-reform pack, the Gang of Eight, and one additional senator, are behind vigorous calls for hearings into whether hackers connected with the Russian government actively tried to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
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And two of these four senators calling for an investigation are failed GOP presidential candidates.
One of them, Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, ran against President-Elect Donald Trump in 2016. Graham later announced he didn’t even vote for his fellow Republican on Nov. 8. Graham instead voted for former CIA operative and NeverTrump candidate Evan McMullin of Utah.
McCain also did not vote for Trump, despite being on the same ticket last November.
The third member of this new gang is the incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The three senators once in the Gang of Eight, along with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), called on Sunday for a congressional investigation into alleged Russian interference into the 2016 election.
The calls come after reports that President Obama has initiated, last week, a complete review of election-related hacking.
Trump has not taken kindly to suggestions from some of his ex-rivals that his campaign was aided, indirectly, from the Russians — a charge raised constantly by Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump has taken umbrage at the charge, and criticized the CIA, albeit indirectly, over the weekend.
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“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump transition team said Friday.
The push for a joint House-Senate investigation into Russian hacking grew stronger on Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose wife will be in President-Elect Trump’s Cabinet, said he was open to a congressional hearing.
McConnell said the alleged hacking of the Democrats was foreign interference in U.S. elections and that an investigation “cannot be a partisan issue.”
But McConnell said he did not support a “select” committee investigation, which would have wider or special powers beyond a regular committee. McCain is likely to lead the investigation into the hacking as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Yet what McConnell cannot admit, publicly, is that the motivations of McCain, Graham, and Schumer are very much partisan. In Graham’s case, they are likely just another way he can play the anti-Trump gadfly, and to attack his hated rival.
Graham revels in his new, smaller role as Trump’s main Republican pest — because it all he has left. The election of Trump significantly diminishes Graham’s agenda in the Senate. Graham is obviously not adjusting well to that new reality.
Both Graham and McCain are viewed as the most hawkish senators in the chambers — figures who would chafe at the notion of deescalating tensions with the nation’s old Cold War adversary.
The same political players making hay of the Russian hacking story have done little to address past cases of major cyber attacks. China, Russia, and even North Korea hack into the systems of U.S. companies and government agencies on a regular basis — some of those instances have resulted in massive breaches.
In June 2015, the Associated Press reported a much more serious hack into U.S. systems.
AP reported that Chinese hackers grabbed sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances. It was the second such 2015 hack of sensitive personnel information used for clearances.
The hack was so serious that, for a time, some federal agencies reviewed security applicants by hand.
AP reported that the Chinese hackers grabbed the “Standard Form 86” — which lists Social Security numbers, mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, and past arrests and bankruptcies. There are few bigger goldmines for spies, especially if they are considering blackmailing U.S. agents later.
The U.S. government never officially blamed China.
Today, no one has definitive proof as to who hacked the emails of John Podesta, the campaign chairman of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. And no one has proof has to whom hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee.
But since Beltway officials and the CIA believe the hacking “fits the profile” of Russian spy agents, Beltway critics and the media are using the issue to again target Trump.
A top question to raise during the hearings, though, will not be the partisan motivations of the hack, but why President Obama allowed such hacking to go for years, without serious retaliation or preventive measures.
Why is it different now?