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Is Hillary Clinton Trying To Question The Legitimacy Of Donald Trump Winning?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Podesta arrive for a portrait unveiling ceremony for retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week.
Tom Williams
CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Podesta arrive for a portrait unveiling ceremony for retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week.

Amid news of possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, a top Hillary Clinton adviser is publicly casting support for a push by some members of the Electoral College to receive an intelligence briefing ahead of their formal vote next week.

"The bipartisan electors' letter raises very grave issues involving our national security," Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta said in statement Monday. "Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed."

It's the losing Democratic nominee's most public show of support yet for efforts to question the legitimacy of election results that gave Donald Trump the presidency. And it follows news over the weekend that the CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the election to help the Republican win.

The letter comes from 10 mostly Democratic electors, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's daughter Christine and New Hampshire Rep.-elect Carol Shea-Porter. Only one signatory is a Republican, Texan Chris Suprun, who has already said he is refusing to vote for Trump despite his state's results.

The electors point to the recent news about Russian involvement and argue that it's their role to best discharge their duties to "prevent a 'desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils,'" as Alexander Hamilton outlined in The Federalist Papers #68.

Trump is challenging one of the Colorado electors, who signed the letter, in court. He's claiming that if the court overturns a state law binding electors to the statewide winner, it would undermine his election. Though Colorado did vote for Clinton, some electors are hoping it could be used to overturn other state laws where Trump did win.

In his statement of support for the electors' push, Podesta also claims that despite the Clinton's campaign's "protestations, this matter did not receive the attention it deserved by the media in the campaign," even though the issue was discussed many times by both candidates and reporters.

"We now know that the CIA has determined Russia's interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American," Podesta continued. "Never before in the history of our Republic have we seen such an effort to undermine the bedrock of our democracy. This is not a partisan issue and we are glad to see bipartisan support in the Congress for an investigation into Russia's role. We believe that the Administration owes it to the American people to explain what it knows regarding the extent and manner of Russia's interference and this be done as soon as possible. To that end, we also support the request from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to declassify information around Russia's roles in the election and to make this data available to the public."

Clinton's campaign also supported recount efforts in key Midwest states, like Wisconsin and Michigan, initiated by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, though the Democrats were skeptical they would alter the results.

Trump and his aides have pushed back against reports of any Russian interference in last month's election, and the president-elect himself cast doubt on the accuracy of the CIA's intelligence. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, reportedly under consideration for Trump's deputy secretary of state, questioned whether the reports were a " false flag" perpetrated by the Obama administration.

But GOP congressional leaders are supporting an investigation into whether Russia did interfere. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he has the "highest confidence" in U.S. intelligence agencies. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also said in a statement that Congress "must condemn and push back forcefully against any state-sponsored cyberattacks on our democratic process."

Democratic congressional leaders have been far more direct in their criticism and accusations. Retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blamed FBI Director James Comey's letter in the final weeks of the campaign for reigniting controversy around Clinton's private email server and costing her the election. And yet, Reid noted, Comey did not release more information about possible Russian involvement in the election.

"It's obvious he was a partisan in all this," Reid told CNN about Comey. "There's information out there. He had it, I'm confident. And he ignored it."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politicsand is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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