It’s time for an independent commission on Russian election interference, California Rep. Eric Swalwell says
The United States needs an independent investigation of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election before the voters return to the polls for a national election in 2018, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) said Tuesday.
“We’re getting too close to sweeping this under the rug and losing the opportunity to do something about it," Swalwell told the Times. "We’re rolling into a midterm election season that’s going to get kicked off pretty soon, and it would be very unfortunate if we started to see more Russian-style influence campaigns start to take place. We owe the American people a report of what happened and recommendations to make sure that it never happens again.”
A report from the U.S. intelligence community in early January found that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an intelligence operation against the U.S. presidential race and ultimately sought to help President Donald Trump win the White House. The Trump administration vehemently denies there was any collusion between the campaign and Russia.
Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned last week amid revelations he misled Vice President Pence and others in the Trump administration about potentially illegal conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. ahead of the president’s inauguration.
Swalwell and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have filed legislation to create a 12-person panel evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats to investigate any attempts by the Russian government or by people in Russia to influence the election.
The bill is supported by every member of the House Democratic Caucus. Over the weekend, North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones became the first Republican to sign on to the effort.
Swalwell said every House Republican has been asked to join the effort.
“It would be very short-sighted for Republicans to think Russia wouldn’t try to do this again, or that other countries wouldn’t look at this as a opportunity and that our elections are now open season for the most aggressive meddlers," he said.
The House and Senate Select Intelligence committees are both reviewing Russian interference in the election , and what role the campaigns may have played, but Swalwell, who serves on the House committee, said all or some of the results will likely remain classified.
House Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) and other Republicans have said they think the committee’s review will be sufficient.
But Swalwell said a commission could dedicate itself full time to a broad and non-partisan investigation similar to the one done by the 9/11 commission after the 2001 attack.
“Until we take it out of Congress and look at it in an independent way that can also make recommendations on securing election systems across the country, we are shirking our duty to make sure our democracy functions the next time an election comes around,” he said.
Swalwell said he met with Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the 9/11 commission, when drafting the legislation. He said Hamilton urged him to keep the wording broad and non-partisan so that the commission could follow the evidence, not a preconceived expectation.
“We wrote it in a way to give Republicans every opportunity to come on board and not make it a re-litigation of the results of the 2016 election,” Swalwell said. “Donald Trump is our president, but if we are concerned about the future we have to say, [as] Republicans and Democrats, we are not going to tolerate this.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, is interviewed by Times political cartoonist David Horsey at the Theatre at Ace Hotel over the weekend. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) speaking at a Democratic conference in San Diego earlier this year.