A top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said she believes Russia tried to interfere in the election and that their activity ultimately altered the outcome.
“The answer is yes on both cases,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said when asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I’ve had all of the major classified briefings. I have been astonished at what has been a two-year effort [at] Russia to spearfish, to hack, to provide disinformation, propaganda wherever it really could. And I think this has been a very sophisticated effort,” Feinstein added.
The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Friday it will investigate the involvement of Russian actors in the U.S. election, "including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns." President-elect Donald Trump's critics have long raised questions about his friendly campaign rhetoric toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of his top adviser's ties to Russia, though none of the intelligence community's statements or reports on Russian actions during the election suggest a link between the two.
When asked if the committee would examine any specific allegations that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russian actors, Feinstein said, "That hasn't been discussed and I really can't answer that question right now."
A declassified intelligence report on Russian involvement in the election released earlier this month does proclaim that “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” The report does not, however, assess whether Russia was successful in achieving its goals, and Trump and his allies have argued that though Russia may have been involved in the election, their actions ultimately didn’t impact the outcome.
She said she hopes the ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the election to be “full and robust,” but if it isn’t, both she and Sen. Mark Warner, vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will call for an independent panel to investigate the situation.
“I’m certainly not gonna leave this in limbo, because this is the future of America, it’s the future of democracy. And if we can’t carry out an election without disinformation being pumped into it by another country, we’ve got a huge destruction of our system going on so we have to — we have to be full and robust in this look,” she said.
Feinstein also said she believes the FBI’s announcement in late October of finding new emails that could be related to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server — which Feinstein called an “October surprise” — “did have an impact” on the outcome of the election. Clinton’s advisers have said their internal polling showed them winning the election prior to the announcement, and that their numbers tanked following.
But Feinstein wouldn’t go so far as to call for FBI Director James Comey to resign.
“I think that’s a decision to come when everybody learns much more about what drove this,” she said.
She did say, however, that the Justice Department Inspector General’s investigation into the FBI’s handling of the case would be “critical” in deciding Comey’s fate “because there are rumors of all kinds of conflicts within the FBI that have focused on the director.”