America must retaliate against Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“I do not believe we can go forward as a nation until we punish Russia,” the South Carolina Republican said on Sunday during an interview on NBC’s ‘Meet The Press.
Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was confident Moscow interfered in the election. “I’m 1,000 percent certain that the Russians interfered in our election,” he said.
“They did try to undercut [Hillary] Clinton. I don’t think they changed the outcome,” Graham said of the presidential vote that put Trump in office. “Russia didn’t change the outcome of the election but they sure as hell tried, and I want to punish the Russians and I hope the president will see their interference as a threat to our democracy.”
Graham also announced he has bipartisan support for additional sanctions against Russia. President Obama had previously placed sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine in 2014 when it annexed Crimea, and the Kremlin’s interference in last year’s presidential election.
In January, the FBI released a report concluding Russia had tried to curtail Clinton’s chances in the election by hacking the Democratic National Convention’s email server. But it didn’t address whether any members of the Trump campaign had actually participated in illegal activity.
Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the alleged ties between Trump’s campaign aides and Russia. Some Republican and Democratic lawmakers are even calling for a special prosecutor to head the investigation. But Graham said he doesn’t see a need for a special prosecutor, calling the Russia investigation a “counter-intelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation.”
“So you don’t need a special prosecutor,” Graham said, adding that he trusts U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the investigation. “If he gets to the point that he can’t do it and it becomes a criminal investigation, we’ll have a special prosecutor.”
Graham also urged the Trump administration on Monday to appoint a new FBI director.
Last week, Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who was leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s campaign advisers had colluded with the Russian government. Democrats and political commentators have speculated Comey’s dismissal is in an attempt by Trump to derail the FBI’s investigation.
The administration attributed the decision to Comey’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s email server.
“I’m ready to move on and pick a new FBI agent and get to the bottom of what Russia did. I have no evidence that the president colluded with the Russians at all. Nobody on the campaign that I know of colluded with the Russians, but we don’t have all the evidence yet. We need to continue forward and protect these investigations,” Graham said.