US Senator Sees No Early End to Russian Meddling Probe

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday said congressional probes of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election will continue despite recent calls for investigators to wrap up their work.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, told VOA’s Serbian Service that investigators will not be deterred by President Donald Trump’s recent call for a resolution to inquiries into Russian influence on the election and whether his campaign colluded with Moscow.

“I don’t think we are at the end at all,” he told VOA, responding to Trump’s Monday comments that “the American people are sick of it.”

“Every day there is more information that comes out,” Cardin added. “It’s clear that Russia attempted to interfere in our elections — they clearly used cyber, they clearly favored one of our candidates, President Trump. There is now more and more indication that they may have used, knowingly or unknowingly, people in our own country. They were clearly actively engaged on the internet, buying advertisements. All that is coming to the surface.”

He said Trump’s recent comments, which coincide with calls from a growing number of Republicans to conclude the investigations by the end of this year, won’t curtail congressional inquiries.

“We don’t know about the investigation by [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller, that investigation will work its own path,” Cardin said. But “as far as the congressional investigation [is concerned], we don’t know the time limit there, but we know that won’t be the end of congressional interest, investigations. So, no, we are not at the end yet.”

Last month, Cardin co-authored a letter with Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona urging Trump to robustly enforce a new set of sanctions that, after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support, authorized the president to punish Moscow over the 2016 campaign meddling.

In that letter, the senators warned Trump that neglecting to enforce the penalties would trigger a congressional review of any relaxation of the sanctions on Russia.

In a recent speech, McCain condemned isolationist politics and “half-baked, spurious nationalism” that, in his opinion, threaten to undercut U.S. global leadership in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and on topics such as climate change. Asked whether he shares McCain’s concern about the Trump administration’s move away from a conventional global leadership role, Cardin said legislators are working to maintain that role.

“Congress is taking steps to prevent that from happening. But, when President Trump talks about America first or America withdrawing, it leaves a void which other players can come in to fill,” he told VOA. “We worry about Russia and China trying to fill that void. We also know that the president, at times, has challenged the transatlantic partnership. The transatlantic partnership has stood very well for U.S. global leadership and we want to make sure we reinforce that.

“So many of the president’s statements have been countered by Congress and have been countered by policies that he has implemented,” Cardin added. “So, at the end of the day, we are confident that America will continue its global leadership. It’s critically important for America’s national security and the advancement of the global goals of good governance, democracy, anti-corruption, fighting for human rights. For all that, I think, the global community depends upon U.S. leadership.”

This story originated in VOA’s Serbian Service.