Editorial: If Trump won't probe Russia, Congress must

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted12/13/2016 4:27 PM
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  • The Central Intelligence Agency, headquartered in Langley, Virginia, has concluded Russian agents hacked U.S. political agencies' computer systems in an attempt to influence the November elections.

    The Central Intelligence Agency, headquartered in Langley, Virginia, has concluded Russian agents hacked U.S. political agencies' computer systems in an attempt to influence the November elections. Associated Press File Photo

Did Russia attempt to undermine the American election by hacking into the emails and computer systems of the political campaigns?

If Russia did, is it possible that the hacking did enough damage to alter the outcome of the election?

Sitting comfortably here in Chicago's suburbs, we may have an opinion on both questions, but we are not experts. The reality is we do not know. Just as most of the country does not know.

Just as, for that matter, President-elect Donald Trump does not know.

The CIA has made an assessment, according to The Washington Post, that the Russian government was indeed involved in the nefarious hacking. Furthermore, the agency also has made an assessment, though perhaps a consensus rather than unanimously supported within the agency, that in its hacking, the Russian government was attempting to influence the results of the election or at least to provide support to Trump's candidacy.

In response, Trump has flatly characterized the assessment as "ridiculous" and then proceeded to besmirch the agency's reputation, similar to the scorched-earth tactics he exhibited in his political campaigns.

Like you, we have no real way of evaluating the CIA's assessment. Like you, we may have an opinion about whether we believe it. But like you, and like President-elect Trump, we don't know the facts.

We would hope that Trump would say what we would expect all presidents to say if confronted with a matter of national security like this: These are serious allegations that strike at the heart of our democracy, and we need to investigate their veracity.

But he so far hasn't. Instead, he has said, "Move on."

Since he is not calling for an investigation, the Congress must take the lead, and we are heartened that both houses have indicated an interest in doing so. We are heartened, in particular, that leading Republicans in the Senate and House recognize the danger that Russian intervention in our elections could pose to the country.

We rely on Illinois' two U.S. senators -- Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk -- and Sen.-elect Tammy Duckworth to push this inquiry with all the weight of their offices. And we count on the suburbs' House delegation -- Republicans and Democrats -- to join in the demand for answers.

It's worth remembering that there could be nothing to these allegations, that the CIA assessment could be wrong. But the stakes are too high to ignore the issue.

This isn't about who was elected. It's about finding out whether a foreign government tried to rig our election. We need to know the answer to that.

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