Mitch McConnell prevented stronger action against Russian election meddling.

How Mitch McConnell Prevented Stronger Action Against Russian Election Meddling

How Mitch McConnell Prevented Stronger Action Against Russian Election Meddling

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Dec. 10 2016 11:27 AM

How Mitch McConnell Prevented Stronger Action Against Russian Election Meddling

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with President-elect Donald Trump, his wife Melania, and VP–elect Mike Pence at the Capitol, Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparently one of the Republican leaders who was most responsible for putting the brakes on a stronger White House pushback against Moscow’s efforts at trying to affect the outcome of the U.S. election. At the end of a bombshell Washington Post piece about how the CIA has concluded that Russia was trying to help Donald Trump win the White House, there is word of a secret meeting on Capitol Hill with a group of key lawmakers in September. It was at this meeting that McConnell reportedly expressed serious reservations about the intelligence and threatened to politicize the agency’s findings if they were made public.

The Post explains that the White House was so convinced by the evidence that Russia was trying to affect the outcome of the election that by mid-September, it decided that stronger action was needed. But White House officials were afraid that the effort would be seen as an attempt to affect the outcome of the election, so the administration wanted both parties to come together and criticize Russian interference as well as urge local governments to accept federal assistance in protecting the voting process.

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The Democratic lawmakers all agreed that the threat of Russian interference needed to be taken seriously but at least two Republicans, including McConnell, pushed back. The Post reports:

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Trump has selected McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, to be his secretary of transportation, a position that requires congressional approval.

McConnell has refused to comment on the reports about the CIA conclusions on Russia’s meddling in the election. McConnell’s office told BuzzFeed News that it “would not violate federal law by providing classified information.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.