President-elect Donald Trump is facing a major showdown with the US Senate after senior Republican senators said they would support moves by Democrats to launch inquiries into Russia’s alleged interference in the November presidential election.
Mr Trump, who has said publicly Russian hackers likely played no part in the leaking of sensitive emails from the Democratic National Committee in the final weeks of the election campaign, will have to stare down influential Republican senators – John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina.
Both men say they will support moves by Democrat senators to investigate the role of Russian hackers in upending Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
As reported by The New Daily this week, a group of Democrat senators has taken the unusual step of calling on Barack Obama to declassify intelligence documents which are believed to contain evidence of Russian attempts to hack American vote counting systems in last month’s election.
Republicans at odds with Trump
Mr Trump has come under fire from Republican politicians for his stance after 17 US intelligence agencies revealed in early October that they found evidence of Russian interference in the election process.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday, Mr McCain said the Senate’s Armed Services Committee would investigate the threats to US security of Russian hackers.
Mr McCain said the hacking of the Democratic Party’s email system qualified as a national security issue and was “very worthy of examination”.
“See, the problem with hacking is that they’re able to disrupt elections, then it’s a national security issue,” he told the Post.
Senator Graham told CNN that he wanted to lead a charge against Russia’s “destabilising” impact in world affairs, including the US electoral process.
“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia – I think they’re one of the most destabilising influences on the world stage,” he said.
“I think they did interfere with our elections and I want Putin personally to pay the price.”
Trump defies advice of US spy agencies
On 7 October, the leading US intelligence agencies revealed in a joint press release that Russian entities were behind the hacked Democratic Party emails.
“These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with US election process,” the spy agencies asserted.
“Such activity is not new to Moscow – the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”
US agencies also detected evidence of Russian hackers “scanning” the servers of state electoral administrators in the months leading up to the November poll.
“Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” they said in the October release.
Despite these public statements, Mr Trump has continued to maintain a sympathetic attitude towards Russia and its controversial leader President Vladimir Putin.
Comments he recently made to Time magazine are likely to have infuriated leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr Trump said he doubted the intelligence community’s findings about Russian meddling in the election.
“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” he said.
When asked if the CIA and other agencies were politically driven, Mr Trump said: “I think so.”
However, support is growing within the Republican Party for a wide-ranging senate probe into Russia’s clandestine campaign to influence the election outcome.
Bob Corker, another senior Republican in the Senate, said he believed an investigation into Russian hacking activities during the election was inevitable.
“We’re definitely going to look at it,” he told the Washington Post.