Dem senator fears Russian election interference could be ‘normalized’

Dem senator fears Russian election interference could be ‘normalized’

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay MORE (D-N.H.) said Thursday that Russian meddling in U.S. elections could become “normalized” if the government does not further respond to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential contest.

Shaheen doubled down on her push for an independent investigation of Russia’s actions and more sanctions on Moscow in a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Thursday afternoon. 

“If Russia gets a pass on 2016, it could interfere in future U.S. elections not only at the presidential level but at the House and Senate level,” Shaheen said. 

The New Hampshire Democrat is part of a bipartisan group of senators who introduced legislation in January that would impose further sanctions on Russia. 

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The intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government orchestrated the hacking and release of emails of high-level Democratic officials to damage Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to debate for first time as front-runner Top Trump ally says potential Amash presidential bid could be problematic in Michigan Chaotic Trump transition leaks: Debates must tackle how Democrats will govern differently MORE and had developed a preference for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE as president.

Shaheen warned Thursday that “partisan divisions” could prevent Congress from agreeing on a response to Russia’s interference. The issue has been a tricky one for Republicans, who have walked a tightrope between taking a hard line on Russia and avoiding the idea that Moscow interfered to help Trump.

Trump has been skeptical of the intelligence community’s conclusions. While he acknowledged in mid-January that he believed Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee, Trump has dismissed the assessment that Moscow tried to help him win the presidency.

On Thursday, Shaheen accused Trump of continuing to “publicly reject the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections.” 

“The danger is that partisan divisions will allow Putin to interfere in our election with no punishment and no consequences,” she said. “And an even more dangerous prospect is that Russian interference of American elections could become normalized.”

The FBI is currently investigating whether there was any coordination between members of Trump’s campaign and Moscow, and congressional panels in both chambers are also probing Russia's efforts. 

The Obama administration imposed additional sanctions on Russia and expelled Russian diplomats from the U.S. in December, weeks after the initial assessment of Russia’s attempts to influence the election. 

Members of Congress from both parties have called for a further response, though the new administration has made no indications of doing so.

While Trump signaled the desire to pursue better relations with Russia, tensions between Washington and Moscow have flared over the conflict in Syria.