GOP senator blocks resolution backing intel community on Russian meddling

A Senate resolution backing the intelligence community’s findings on Russia’s election meddling was blocked for a second time on Tuesday.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.) tried to get consent to pass their resolution, which also thanks the Department of Justice (DOJ) for investigating Russia’s interference.

But GOP Sen. David Perdue (Ga.) blocked their request, calling it a “political distraction.” Under the Senate’s rules any one senator can block a request to pass legislation by unanimous consent.

“We need to focus on funding the federal government and confirming this president’s nominees. … This resolution is no more than political theater,” Perdue, who led the push in the Senate to cancel the August recess, said from the Senate floor.

Perdue added that the Senate Intelligence Committee found “no evidence” that Russia’s election meddling impacted the outcome of the election, that he and the Senate have “consistently been tough” on Russia and that the Senate is weighing passing additional sanctions.

Flake and Coons initially tried to pass their resolution last week but it was blocked the first time by Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, who argued at the time that the Senate should focus on passing new sanctions legislation.

Flake added on Tuesday that he and Coons would try again to pass their resolution because Trump seemed to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russia’s meddling over the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment during a joint press conference last week.

“Last week I cited George Orwell’s ‘1984’ where he said the party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. Today our president said what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Flake said Tuesday.

Flake added that the “topic of election interference is being muddied and being further clarified and then further muddied.”

In addition to supporting the intelligence community’s findings and the DOJ investigation, the resolution also calls on the administration to fully implement the sanctions against Russia that Congress passed last year and urges congressional oversight “including prompt hearings and the release of relevant note and information” so Congress can understand Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki.

Trump sparked widespread backlash when he refused to condemn Russia’s election meddling during the joint press conference with Putin last week.

He tried to walk back his comments from the White House, saying he accepted the intelligence community’s findings, but added that it could be “other people” as well.

Then Trump appeared to reverse course over the weekend, calling election interference a “big hoax.” And he floated on Tuesday morning the idea that Russia could try to meddle in the 2018 election to help Democrats.

“I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!” he said in a tweet.

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