A senior US Republican senator has urged President Donald Trump to take action against Russia over allegations that Moscow interfered in the election that brought him to power.
US intelligence officials have told Mr Trump that Moscow tried to influence voters by hacking Democratic emails and trolling social media sites, but the President has sought to downplay Russia’s role in the election.
Speaking to world leaders, diplomats and defence officials at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said Congress needs to get involved to ensure there are “consequences” for the alleged hacking.
“2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress,” Mr Graham said.
Referring to forthcoming elections in France and Germany this year and concerns of outside interference, Mr Graham said “I promise everybody in this room that Congress is going to take a long hard look what Russia did to undermine our elections, so you’ll be better prepared when they come your way.”
He said he planned to introduce a bipartisan motion for new Russia sanctions and it will get “north of 75 votes”.
“My goal is to put it on Trump’s desk and I hope he’ll embrace the idea that as the leader of the free world he should be working with us to punish Russia,” Mr Graham said.
Russia denies meddling in the election. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday: “I have seen no facts. There were just some accusations that we tried to hack some Democratic Party website.”
Though the allegations are that the hacking was directed at the Democrats, Mr Graham said: “We should have an Article 5 that an attack on one party is an attack on all.” He was referring to NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one member of the alliance is seen an attack of the entire alliance.
“My biggest concern with President Trump … is that he’s never really looked the camera in the eye and said, ‘Even though it was the Democratic Party that suffered from Russian interference, I am now the leader of the free world and I can assure you they’re going to pay a price on my watch for trying to interfere in our election.'”
The conference opened on Friday with criticism of Mr Trump from another senior Republican senator, Arizona’s John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who said “more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticising it as our moral equivalent”.
Later, answering question about the ouster of Mr Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia, Mr McCain said that the issue “is something that shows in many respects this administration is in disarray and they’ve got a lot of work to do.”
McCain, who has openly quarrelled with the president, added that Mr Trump often “contradicts himself” in his statements, and that “some of us have learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says”.