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Pelosi steps up calls for Russia probe

Pelosi steps up calls for Russia probe
© Greg Nash

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is amplifying her calls for an independent investigation into Russia's involvement in the U.S. elections.

Citing recent reports that tie Russian President Vladimir Putin directly to the hacking of Democratic computer systems earlier in the year, Pelosi said Congress has “a constitutional duty” to respond “with urgency.”

An independent, bipartisan panel similar to that established after the 9/11 attacks, she argues, is the best way to go about it.

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“Elections determine the future our children will inherit,” Pelosi said Thursday in a statement. “Given the alarming magnitude, seriousness and scope of Russia’s efforts to undermine U.S. elections, we must have an independent, bipartisan investigation to protect the integrity of our democracy.”

Pelosi is calling on Republican leaders to pass legislation — introduced earlier in the month by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) — to create such a commission. The probe is “critical,” she said, to get to the bottom of “Russia’s efforts to undermine our elections and democratic institutions.”

GOP leaders don't appear ready to comply. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBoebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report Urgency mounts for new voting rights bill Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster MORE (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRevising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices Paul Ryan will attend Biden's inauguration COVID-19 relief bill: A promising first act for immigration reform MORE (R-Wis.) are encouraging an examination of the cyberattacks through the sitting intelligence committees, but they've rejected the notion of forming a special panel. 

Many Republicans have suggested the Democrats want to pursue the issue largely for the political purpose of undermining the legitimacy of President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE's victory. 

“Exploiting the work of our intelligence community for partisan purposes does a grave disservice to those professionals and potentially jeopardizes our national security,” Ryan said this week. 

Fueling those criticisms, the House Intelligence Committee was forced to cancel a briefing on Thursday after intelligence officials refused to attend. The officials said such a briefing is premature before they conclude a larger investigation into foreign meddling going back to the 2008 election cycle — an argument panned by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the panel's chairman, as “unacceptable.”

Pelosi's call for a special panel came a day after NBC News reported that U.S. officials believe Putin had a personal hand in directing the hacks on Democratic campaign offices. Many of those stolen documents were subsequently made public online through a slow drip of leaks — some funneled through WikiLeaks — beginning in the summer and leading right up to the Nov. 8 elections.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that the CIA has concluded the cyberattacks were designed to damage Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFor Joe Biden, an experienced foreign policy team Millennials and the great reckoning on race Biden chooses Amanda Gorman as youngest known inaugural poet MORE, the Democratic nominee, and tip the election in favor of Trump.

Trump, who has been friendly toward the Russian leader, has dismissed that narrative, suggesting the CIA's intelligence is simply unreliable.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” he told the Post.

But Pelosi, who was the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee in the lead up to the Iraq War, rejects such claims. She's long maintained that the briefings Congress received from the intelligence agencies never supported the Bush administration's argument that Iraq posed an immediate threat to the United States. 

“The intelligence never said that. Bush and Cheney said that, but the intelligence never [did],” Pelosi told reporters Tuesday in her office in the Capitol. “And that's why at the time I said the intelligence does not support the threat that they are claiming."

“They misrepresented this to the American people,” she added. “We went to war on a false premise, and now [Trump is] using that to question the fact — the fact — that the Russians disrupted [our elections].”