U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said Monday he’s troubled that President-elect Donald Trump has been dismissive of warnings by the nation’s intelligence agencies over Russian interference in the United States’ presidential election.
After 17 intelligence agencies, which historically don’t always agree, made a joint statement Oct. 7 alleging that Russia had tried to steer the election, “any American should be concerned,” Warner said during a meeting with The Virginian-Pilot’s editorial board.
“The mantra of the intelligence community is ‘Speak truth to power.’ It is unprecedented for a president-elect to basically thumb his nose at the combined conclusions of the whole intelligence community,” Warner said.
As the new vice chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the Virginia Democrat will be involved in a congressional investigation of the Russian breach, whether it is conducted by Select Intelligence or a new cyber-activity committee being sought by a bipartisan Senate group.
Warner said that while he doesn’t want to “relitigate” the Nov. 8 election, people need to know what happened.
He was close-mouthed about whether he believes that Russian hackers affected the election outcome. While privy to classified information, Warner said he cannot speak in detail. He hopes that President Barack Obama’s administration can declassify and make public, before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, any detailed information about Russia’s activities.
“I would like that to happen because then I think Americans and Virginians would be able to reach some of their own conclusions,” Warner said. “The goal is to try to get people aware. Not just people in this country. There are going to be equally important elections in Gemany, Denmark and France this coming year.”
Warner, who made a fortune in the cellphone industry before entering politics, warned that cybersecurity is an enormous and fast-growing problem.
“We’ve got 10 million devices that connected to the Internet right now. That’s going to go to 34 billion … by 2020,” he said. “Every one of those are connected to a network vulnerable to a cyber attack.”
A congressional inquiry of possible foreign election tampering likely would focus on three areas, Warner said. Among them: What Russia or its agents did to disseminate fake news stories and other propaganda; and what information was hacked and how it was used. They also will examine reports – already made public – of a Russian deputy minister saying his country’s officials had contacts with the Trump campaign.
Warner, whose only encounter with Trump was shaking his hand at some long-forgotten event, said he’s deeply concerned about the incoming administration in part because of Cabinet appointments of individuals far from the political center and because of the president-elect’s changing views on major issues. Trump doesn’t have a “defined ideological North Star,” Warner said.
“I think we’re in uncharted territory,” he said, adding that many appointees are “on the extreme of the Republican Party. … So that part scares the dickens out of me.”
This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.