US senators: Russia should be sanctioned for election hacks
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. senators visiting eastern European allies to discuss security issues called for sanctions against Russia for interfering in the presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts. Their demands came amid ongoing discussions among U.S. officials on an imminent response that would ensure the U.S. takes action against Russia before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
“We have to sanction Russia for these cyberattacks (and) send a clear message to the incoming administration that there is a lot of bipartisan support in Congress for going after this,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told The Associated Press by phone from Latvia.
Klobuchar joined Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in their visits to some of Russia’s neighbors — the Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia — as well as Montenegro.
Russian officials have denied the Obama administration’s accusation that the highest levels of the Russian government were involved in trying to influence the U.S. presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia’s goal was to help Trump win — an assessment Trump has dismissed as ridiculous.
The Obama administration has said the U.S. will respond at a time and with a means of its choosing, and that all responses may not be publicly known.
The lawmakers on Wednesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the Baltics, saying the relationship with the three former Soviet states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — “will not change” under the new administration.
“I predict there will be bipartisan sanctions coming that will hit Russia hard, particularly (President Vladimir) Putin as an individual,” Graham told reporters in Riga, the Latvian capital. He didn’t elaborate on possible sanctions.
The U.S. has already sanctioned Russia over its annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine, but it could potentially use an April 2015 executive order allowing for the use of sanctions to combat cyberattacks.
A year after the order was issued, Democratic Party officials learned their systems were attacked after discovering malicious software on their computers.
But the executive order isn’t well suited to the Russian activities, said Stewart Baker, a partner specializing in cybersecurity for Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Baker said that order was primarily aimed at cyberespionage, such as spying by the Chinese military for commercial advantage.