Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of the biggest critics of Russia’s election-related cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election conceded that Donald Trump will be the next US president.
“What Russia did in our election did not change the outcome. Donald Trump’s the legitimate president,” Graham said in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night.
The South Carolina senator weeks ago said Russia should suffer “crippling sanctions” because of its election-related cyberattacks and accused the Kremlin of hacking his campaign accounts also. Graham was a contender in the Republican primary before dropping out in December 2015.
He asserted that Russia’s cyberattacks should not be forgotten: “This is uniquely bad,” Graham said, “if you give Putin a pass on [hacking], we’ll pay a heavy price because the Iranians and the Chinese, they’re sizing us up.”
Multiple US intelligence agencies are investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the election. Russia has denied the accusations.
Democrats and Republicans have both scolded Russia and President Vladimir Putin – but Trump, until recently, avoided acknowledging Russia’s involvement. The president-elect has since conceded that Russia is behind the attacks, but also pointed to China and others.
President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against Russia last month that included the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US. He also ordered the nation’s spy agencies to investigate possible Russian interference in US presidential elections going back to 2008.
Sen. Graham suggested the Obama administration’s actions are not enough: “[Obama] threw a pebble at Putin. I want to throw a rock.” He also pointed to the incoming administration: “If Trump forgives Putin, it screams weakness.”