Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday that the Russians are “up to it again” when it comes to meddling with elections in the United States and called on President Trump to crack down on Moscow’s efforts at interference.
Graham, R-S.C., broke with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s assertion that Russia’s role in election interference in 2016 was “a couple of Facebook ads,” and said the government of President Vladimir Putin attempted to pit "one American against the other" when it hacked into Democratic emails.
“This is a big deal, this isn't a few Facebook ads,” Graham said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “They actually got into the campaign email system of the Democratic Party…An attack on one party is an attack to all.”
Graham added: “Everything we've done with the Russians is not working. We need more sanctions not less. More sanctions now.”
Graham, a close confidant of Trump and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, promised to work with both the heads of the Senate Intelligence and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to "harden our infrastructure against Russia or anybody else interfering in 2020."
"The takeaway for me is they were very involved in the 2016 election, they’re coming at us again. I’d like to stop them. And one way to stop them is to make them pay a price," he said.
In his report to Attorney General William Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election "in sweeping and systematic fashion" and that its efforts were designed to help Trump.
The FBI warned the Trump campaign in July 2016 that Russia would likely try to infiltrate or influence its election efforts. That month, Trump publicly urged Russia to find some of Clinton's missing emails, a remark he later characterized as a joke. And that October, the U.S. intelligence community released a unanimous statement formally accusing Russia of being behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, a conclusion Trump repeatedly challenged.
Mueller wrote that the Trump campaign "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts." But the special counsel said investigators concluded, "While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.