June 20 (UPI) — Bipartisan leaders of an investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Wednesday criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to fight it.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a hearing that Obama administration officials had no plan to deal with the threat of a foreign power meddling in the 2016 presidential election. It was not until January 2017 that intelligence agencies publicly revealed that Russia was working to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to the advantage of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“They wanted to warn the Russians to stop interfering but avoid the appearance of putting their thumb on the scale in an election year,” Burr said.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the committee’s leading Democrat, faulted both the Obama administration and that of President Donald Trump for not fighting back against Russian involvement.
“We should not have been surprised,” Warner said. citing Russia’s prior involvement in Ukrainian elections and its use of leaks as a political weapon.
Burr called Wednesday’s public hearing “an opportunity for people who were on the frontline, making decisions” in 2016 to inform lawmakers about their experiences. He added that testimony “may or may not affect what’s in our final report.”
Burr said more testimony is expected, some behind closed doors for security purposes. While declining to announce who may be invited to testify, he suggested that former Secretary of State John Kerry would be called.
“I think that’s certainly somebody who could contribute to what our final report says,” Burr said.