Leahy, Welch Call For Investigation Into Russian Hack; Don't Feel Electors Need To Be Briefed

Dec 13, 2016

Members of Vermont's congressional delegation are calling for an independent investigation to determine the extent of Russian intervention in the recent U.S. presidential election. But they don't think this information needs to be gathered in time for presidential electors to be briefed on this issue before they vote next Monday.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is part of a group of senators calling for a full scale, bipartisan, independent investigation to determine the extent to which the Russian government tried to affect the outcome of last month's U.S. presidential race.

"To have a country that certainly has differing views than ours — is opposed to us on issues from human rights to freedom of the press — to have them doing hacking apparently to influence our elections should concern every American whether they're Republican or Democrat," Leahy said Tuesday.

And Leahy says he's appalled that President-elect Donald Trump is downplaying the need for a special investigation and has strongly criticized the CIA for providing what Trump says is inaccurate information on this matter.

"Whether he's trying to protect the Russians or not," said Leahy, "it does protect them by downgrading our own intelligence people and saying their analysis of wrongdoing by the Russians couldn't possibly be right. I can't imagine any president, Republican or Democrat doing that."

"Whether he's trying to protect the Russians or not, it does protect them by downgrading our own intelligence people and saying their analysis of wrongdoing by the Russians couldn't possibly be right." — Sen. Patrick Leahy

Rep. Peter Welch is also calling for Republicans and Democrats to support a special investigation.

"This investigation really has to be bipartisan," Welch said late Monday. "This should be something that we get to the bottom of and hopefully come out on the other side with a joint condemnation of the conduct that our intelligence agencies say was done by the Russians."

A group of electors representing New Hampshire, Rhodes Island, Colorado and California, want all presidential electors to be briefed on this subject before they vote next Monday. But Leahy doesn't think this formal step is needed.

"I think the members of the Electoral College can just read what's been in the press," Leahy said. "It's pretty obvious what Russia did. The reports from the intelligence agencies, reports from others have been pretty accurate."

Welch also doesn't support the briefing of the presidential electors. He thinks it's bad idea to use the investigation to raise questions about the legitimacy of Trump's election as president.

"I think that's a dead end, quite frankly," said Welch. "The idea that we're going to try to take some actions to alter what has been the outcome of this election, I think is probably not a good idea."

"The idea that we're going to try to take some actions to alter what has been the outcome of this election, I think is probably not a good idea." — Rep. Peter Welch

Gov. Peter Shumlin is one of Vermont's three presidential electors and says any electors who want a special briefing should be given one.

"It's up to all of us to figure out what they did, what they knew, and what impact they had," Shumlin said Tuesday. "Having said that, under Vermont law the electors are bound to vote for the highest vote-getter — and I will vote for Hillary Clinton — but I don't blame the folks from New Hampshire and other states that want an explanation before they vote. I don't feel I need one."

Sen. Bernie Sanders did not respond to a request for an interview or for a statement on this issue.

Vermont's three electors — Martha Allen, president of the Vermont NEA, State Rep. Tim Jerman, vice chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party and Gov. Shumlin — will meet Monday Dec. 19 at the Statehouse to formally cast their ballots for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.