McCain and Graham urge US to hit Russia back over election hacking

Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.) on Wednesday urged the U.S. to hit back at Russia over Kremlin's alleged interference in the 2016 election.

"You can do a number of things," McCain told Fox News, including strengthening sanctions agains Russia, increasing U.S. presence in the Baltic countries and giving "defensive weapons to Ukraine so that they can defend themselves."

Graham echoed McCain's assessment, adding that the U.S. should focus on retaliatory steps with lasting impact.

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"The bottom line is you need to hit Russia in a sustained fashion so if [President] Obama tries to do something going out the door that's not sustained, then you send the wrong signal," Graham said.

“Let the new Congress and the new president deal with Russia, pass new sanctions, much tougher than the ones we already have. ... I would put their energy sector under sanction,” he said.

When McCain was asked whether he thought the tough anti-Russian measures would incite Moscow to hit back even stronger, the senator said inaction is not an option.

“Look, if you’re able to change the results of an election, then you have undermined the very fundamentals of democracy,” said McCain, while accusing the Obama administration of passively observing Russia's actions.  

“[Vladimir Putin] understands strength, and that’s all that he understands,” he added.
Both lawmakers have been highly critical of Russian actions in the past, and have urged other lawmakers from both parties to take Moscow's alleged interference in the U.S. elections seriously.
 
"We need to let all the adversaries of America know that if you interfere in our elections you are going to pay a heavy price and those who doubt that we should retaliate, then you really don't understand the world at all," Graham said.
 
The Obama administration is reportedly preparing retaliatory actions against Russia that could include new sanctions on its economy.