Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, a member of the Senate foreign relations and intelligence committees, was adamant on CNN yesterday that he doesn’t believe Russia successfully interfered in the U.S. election in November. “It is a fact that no one can deny that the Russians attempt to influence elections all over the world,” Risch told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “No one in the intelligence community has offered anything, that the Russians, whatever they did, whether it was hacking or whether it was releasing things, had any effect.”
He added: “I don’t think they interfered. I think they attempted to interfere.”
Blitzer countered that U.S. intelligence officials have announced they’re “confident” that the Russian government, at its highest levels, directed hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign official John Podesta’s personal emails, which were made public through Wikileaks. James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said as much on Oct. 7, Blitzer said. “He didn’t say they attempted, they did interfere.”
Risch responded, “In my judgment, interfere means did they affect the outcome of the election. In my judgment, they had no effect on the outcome of the election – indeed, one could argue that it went the other way. If indeed the Russians were involved in trying to help Donald Trump, and as was reported before the election that became a news item … I would think the American people would go, ‘Whoa, I don’t want to have anything to do with the Russians.’”
When Blitzer said the release of all those emails was “so embarrassing to the Democrats,” Risch said, “If you want to put up a scale and say how many embarrassing things came out about Hillary Clinton and how many embarrassing things came out about Donald Trump, I think the scale would be about even. I do not believe, and believe me I’ve sat through hours of this at different levels, and I’m firmly convinced that the Russians, as they did in France, as they did in Austria, as they did in all other kinds of elections, attempted to interfere. They’ve been notoriously unsuccessful in influencing elections.”
Asked if he’ll support Sen. Lindsey Graham’s call for a full-scale Senate investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, Risch said, “If Lindsey believes he needs more, I support that. I’ve sat through hours of this and I can’t go into details on it for obvious reasons, but if Lindsey feels he needs more, I support Lindsey in chasing that down.”
You can watch the full exchange online here.