WASHINGTON Jan 8 Two senior Republican senators
urged President-elect Donald Trump to punish Russia in response
to U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that President
Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts aimed at influencing
the outcome of the November election.
In a joint appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday,
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence
was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election - a
point that Trump has refuted repeatedly by arguing it might be
impossible to tell who was responsible.
"In a couple weeks, Donald Trump will be the defender of the
free world and democracy," Graham said. "You should let
everybody know in America, Republicans and Democrats, that
you're going to make Russia pay a price for trying to
Both senators said they remain unsure if they will support
Trump's pick for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp
Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, who has been criticized
for his close ties to Putin. The Senate Foreign Relations
Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday to
consider Tillerson's nomination.
Three U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint report on
Friday that concluded that Putin directed efforts to help
Trump's electoral chances by discrediting his Democratic rival
Hackers penetrated the Democratic National Committee's email
server and separately stole emails from John Podesta, who
chaired Clinton's campaign. The emails were then posted online
and used to embarrass Clinton, including by Trump who frequently
used the content as political ammunition.
Russia was trying to undermine public faith in the
democratic process, damage Clinton, making it harder for her to
win and harm her presidency if she did, the unclassified report
McCain said he supports continued investigations into the
"We need to come to grips with it and get to the bottom of
it and overall come up with a strategy in this new form of
warfare that can basically harm our economy, harm our elections,
harm our national security," he said.
Trump, whose views on Russia are out of step with his party,
has repeatedly dismissed claims that the Russians were trying to
help him, arguing that the charges against Russia are the
product of his political opponents trying to undermine his
On Friday, after receiving his intelligence briefing, Trump
did not squarely address whether he was told of the agencies'
belief Russia carried out the hacking.
Instead, he said: "Russia, China, other countries, outside
groups and people are consistently trying to break through the
cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions,
businesses and organizations" including the DNC.
On Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter that having a better
relationship with Russia is a "good thing."
"Only 'stupid' people or fools, would think that is bad!" he
tweeted. "We have enough problems around the world without yet
another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far
more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work
together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems
and issues of the WORLD!"
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Mary Milliken)