Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, used a hearing on government transparency Wednesday to demand that the panel take action on allegations that the Russian government interfered in last month’s election.
He charged that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), is rebuffing requests for an investigation into the matter.
“On November 17, 2016, I wrote a letter to the Chairman requesting that our committee conduct a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s role in interfering and influencing the 2016 presidential election,” Cummings said in prepared remarks.
“Today, nearly three weeks have now gone by, I’ve received no response,” he then noted. “The committee has taken no action.”
On Tuesday, Cummings sent a letter to President Obama about the matter, alongside fellow members of House Democratic leadership. Other signatories included House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md), and the ranking members of the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Armed Services, and Intelligence Committees.
“We are gravely concerned that Russia may have succeeded in weakening Americans’ trust in our electoral institutions through their cyber activity, which may also include sponsoring disclosures through WikiLeaks and other venues, and the production and distribution of fake news stories,” the lawmakers wrote.
They asked that the administration offer a classified briefing to all members providing details about “Russian or Russian-related interference or involvement” in the elections.
“We did ourselves what this committee did not,” Cummings said during Wednesday’s hearing.
“Any foreign influence in our elections should be of the greatest concern to every single member of this Congress,” he added.
In a separate letter last week, a group of Democratic Senators, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Warner (D-Va,), and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), called on President Obama to release specific, relevant records related to Russian election interference claims.
“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the US election that should be declassified and released to the public,” the Senators stated in their terse message.
The only information released to the public so far on the issue came via a one-page statement in October from The Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In it, the agencies attributed the hack and release of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails to the Russian government.
They described the cyber theft as an effort to “interfere with the US election process.”
Testifying at Wednesday’s hearing was Steven Aftergood, the Director of the Project on Government Secrecy with the Federation of American Scientists. He concurred with Rep. Cummings that more information about Russian involvement should be made public.
“The blanket of classification that has been spread over it needs to be reevaluated,” Aftergood stated.