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Lindsey Graham says 2017 is all about hitting back at Russia

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asks questions during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016.

CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

By NICK WADHAMS AND PATRICK DONAHUE | Bloomberg News | Published: February 19, 2017

MUNICH, Germany (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham promised Sunday that Congress will press ahead with a bill to sanction Russia for interfering in the U.S. presidential election, and investigate the methods it used, to make sure other countries don’t fall victim to similar hacking attacks.

Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, called on President Donald Trump to make a clear statement that Russia must pay a price for interfering with the election even though Democrats suffered most from the hacking. A Senate bill to sanction Russia is likely to get more than 75 votes and Trump should sign it, he told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

The year 2017 “is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress,” Graham said. “If you’re worried that we’re not going to look long and hard at what Russia did in our election because Trump won and Republicans are in charge, you don’t need to worry about that. We are. Because if we don’t, it could be the Chinese or Iranians next, it could be the Republicans next time.”

Allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election — and concern it will do the same ahead of votes in Germany and France this year — were a theme at the security conference, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia’s pursuit of so-called hybrid warfare poses a “serious challenge for democracies.” Participants remained unnerved by Trump’s repeated calls for better ties with Moscow, even after Vice President Mike Pence said Russia must be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine.

After Trump won the election in November, the U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment that Russia sought to sway the election in his favor through the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff. In the waning days of his administration, Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia’s military intelligence agency and the successor agency to the KGB, saying the actions had been directed “at the highest level” of the government.

In remarks to the conference on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pushed back against the accusation, saying no one had put forward any proof. “Somehow when we are blamed, no one asked for facts,” Lavrov said. “Give us some facts.”

Graham called for an “Article 5” commitment between Republicans and Democrats that an attack on one is an attack on all. That’s a reference to the part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s charter that obligates members to protect one another if attacked.

“To our German friends, you’re next,” Graham said. “To our friends in France, they’re coming after you. To my friend Mr. Lavrov, I hope you finally suffer some consequences for what you and your regime have been doing to democracies.”

Patrick Donahue reported from Munich. Nick Wadhams reported from Washington.

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