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Senators Call For Probe Into Claims Russia Interfered In U.S. Election


And we begin this hour with the latest on the CIA, Russia and President-elect Trump. To get you caught up this Monday morning, here is what unfolded over the weekend. Late on Friday, news broke that the CIA believes Russia interfered with the presidential election in order to tip it to Donald Trump. That has led a bipartisan group of senators to call for a sweeping investigation. Donald Trump is dismissing it, saying there is no hard evidence.


DONALD TRUMP: They have no idea if it's Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace.

MARTIN: And that was the president-elect speaking yesterday on Fox News. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly is here in the studio with us to talk more. Good morning, Mary Louise.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start off by having you remind us exactly what it is the CIA is claiming.

KELLY: So as often is the case covering the intelligence beat, we do not have access to the actual document that the CIA has briefed on Capitol Hill. It's classified, so we're relying on people who have seen it who can describe the contents of it. But what I am told by a U.S. official who has seen it is that in the last several weeks new information has come to light that has led the CIA to conclude with confidence that Russia intervened to tip the election to Trump. That's what's new. We've been hearing for a while about Russian hacks into political institutions here in the U.S. This is the CIA attributing a motive, saying this was why they were doing it.

MARTIN: A partisan intention.

KELLY: Exactly.

MARTIN: Now, we're also hearing that the FBI isn't quite as confident in this judgment, that maybe there are divisions within the intelligence community. So what is the evidence that the CIA has, what proof that Russia intervened?

KELLY: That is the million-dollar question. Again, the assessment's classified. Members of Congress who have been briefed who I've spoken to described the evidence as strong. One of the key points appears to be that the CIA says not just Democratic institutions were hacked, like the DNC - the Democratic National Committee - but the RNC, the Republican National Committee. But those emails and documents weren't leaked.

MARTIN: All right. So how are the plans shaping up for an investigation? Because there are several senators now calling for this.

KELLY: There are. There are all kinds of investigations shaping up into this. Two big ones that will be unfolding - one that's underway already, that's been ordered by President Obama. That is him ordering his intelligence agencies to look into campaign season cyberintrusions going all the way back - this year but also going back to 2008. He wants that before he leaves office, so they're rushing to complete that in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, there are moves to launch their own investigation, as you mentioned. Today, this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out and threw his full weight behind the CIA. Let's listen to that.


MITCH MCCONNELL: I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community and especially the Central Intelligence Agencies. The CIA is filled with selfless patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people.

KELLY: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - he also said he supports investigations that other senators are talking about kicking off. And one key point that I think is worth stressing here - you were not hearing anybody speaking out on the Hill saying we should reopen - relitigate the results of the election. What they are saying is let's figure out what happened and try to figure out how it should never happen again.

MARTIN: But if you just look at Donald Trump's reaction to all this, he says he doesn't believe Russia interfered, which is a big deal for a president-elect to publicly question a CIA assessment. So what does that mean for this next administration, for this next president and his relationship with his Central Intelligence Agency?

KELLY: We are in uncharted waters. Nobody knows what the answer to that is. As I have made calls and spoken to CIA officials - current and past - over the last 72 hours, they describe a deep uneasiness about how this bodes for the future. I mean, the CIA, let's remember, is supposed to be nonpartisan. It is supposed to operate above the political fray - not saying they always succeed but that is the idea. And now they find themselves in the middle of this huge political storm that, as these investigations proceed and as more leaks come out and as more is officially made public, we can only assume it's a storm that's going to get bigger.

MARTIN: National security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, thank you so much.

KELLY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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