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Dem Senators seek Congress probe of election hacking, WH backs

Washington: Top Democratic Senators today demanded an independent non-partisan commission to investigate the alleged Russian meddling in the US poll, a move the White House appeared to support saying a “congressional review of the explosive issue is “certainly warranted” given the stakes.

In a joint statement, Democratic Senators Ben Cardin, Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy called for the creation of an independent, non-partisan commission to comprehensively investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The panel, they proposed, would fully probe the alleged Russian cyberattacks on US political entities and election infrastructure, seek to identify those responsible, and recommend a response the US can take to defend itself.

Modelled on other independent commissions, this body would compile all available classified intelligence and open source information, conduct hearings, with subpoena power, and report its findings to Congress within 18 months from being formed.

The membership of the commission would be individuals appointed by the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leadership, they said.

The White House appeared to support the move. “We certainly have long supported the principle of congressional review of this matter. There has been intensive cooperation between the intelligence community and other national security agencies, and members of Congress in both parties, both before and after the election,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Last week, US President Barack Obama had ordered investigation into such allegations in the elections. “One of the stated goals of the ongoing review that the president ordered last week by intelligence community was to compile information that could be presented to Congress,” Earnest told reporters adding that “a congressional review of this matter” is “certainly warranted when you consider the stakes.”

“So, we support the principle of congressional review, but I wouldn’t weigh in with an opinion right now about which committee should bear that responsibility,” he said.

The Senators’ announcement complements the call by bipartisan leadership in the Senate for Congressional investigations as well as support in the House of Representatives for an independent commission.

“We’ve seen what Russia can do with a MiG, but they can be equally destructive with a mouse. The American people deserve a nonpartisan, transparent, public investigation into this insidious attack on our democratic institutions,” said Cardin, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“Elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the foundational elements of our democracy. They have been attacked and undermined by the world’s most destabilising major power. As a nation it’s time to get to the bottom of it and learn what we can do to prevent it from ever happening again,” he said.

“An attack against our election system is an attack on our very way of life and must not go unchallenged,” said Feinstein, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.