Politics

McConnell Again Shoots Down Idea of New Committee on Russian Hacking

Majority leader says Intelligence panels can do the job

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also says he isn't too concerned about Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson's ties to Russia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated Monday that a new committee to investigate Russian hacking related to the 2016 election was not necessary. And, if Russians were looking to sway the election in the favor of Donald Trump, the Kentucky Republican said they would be disappointed.

“If they were trying to elect Donald Trump, my guess is … they made a bad investment, because look at who he’s picking for the Cabinet: Gen. [James] Mattis for Defense, Mike Pompeo, an intelligence expert, No. 1 in his class at the academy, to head the CIA,” McConnell said in an interview on Kentucky public television that aired Monday night.

“If they say they’re trying to elect a particular candidate, I think they’re going to find out that it didn’t do them any good,” he said.

McConnell said he was not concerned about Trump’s pick for secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who has business ties to Russia. McConnell said the Exxon Mobil CEO was just doing his job in searching for oil and gas.

However, McConnell also said he did not agree with Tillerson’s criticism of U.S.-imposed sanctions on Russia following the country’s invasion of Crimea.

[Can Republicans Afford to Oppose Tillerson?]

“I don’t have any doubt that Rex Tillerson will be representing the United States of America,” McConnell said. “My guess is that Vladimir Putin will be very disappointed with the Rex Tillerson he gets as secretary of State, a very different job representing the United States of America as opposed to one of the country’s largest businesses.”

In the interview, McConnell reiterated his position that a select committee is not necessary to investigate possible Russian hacking to interfere in the 2016 election, and the issue will be handled by the Intelligence committees.

“We already have a committee established to do this,” McConnell said. “We don’t need a special committee to set up what we already have the ability to do, but it is a serous matter and it will be investigated.”

[Bipartisan Senators Call for New Committee on Russian Hacking]

His remarks comes after a bipartisan group of top senators, including incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Armed Services Chairman John McCaincalled for a temporary select committee to investigate the hacking and to make legislative recommendations.

The push for a new committee will likely continue when the 115th Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

But McConnell is also looking to capitalize on unified GOP control of the House, the Senate and the White House to start the process of repealing the 2010 health care law, developing a tax overhaul and undoing regulations.

“Well, it’s certainly no time for hubris because all majorities are never permanent,” the majority leader said. “It’s a big job to actually have responsibility and to produce results and we intend to do it.”

McConnell said he expects Democratic resistance.

“It’ll be interesting to see,” McConnell said. “The Democrats are in a very feisty mood these days.”

[How Republicans Held the Senate]

McConnell admitted in the interview that he had expected the GOP to lose control of the Senate this year and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win the White House. He noted that Republicans were defending 24 Senate seats, compared to the Democrats’ 10.

“I honestly thought we wouldn’t hold the U.S. Senate. I thought we’d come up short,” McConnell said. “I didn’t think President Trump had a chance of winning.”

McConnell explained that Trump was victorious, especially in some traditionally Democratic states, because he spoke to a segment of the population that felt neglected by politicians.

“I think there was a lot of feeling among just ordinary people all across the country that the current administration didn’t care about them,” McConnell said. “And Trump was able to convey, oddly enough, a message from a billionaire who lives in Manhattan, a genuine concern for people who felt kind of left off, that were sort of offended by all the political correctness they see around them, and didn’t feel like this was the America they were accustomed to.”

Contact Bowman at bridgetbowman@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @bridgetbhc.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.