- Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Wednesday that he was open to “looking into everything” related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – including Jared Kushner’s meeting in December with the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank.
Kushner volunteered on Monday to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with the US ambassador to Russia, Sergey Kislyak, and the CEO of Vnesheconombank, Sergey Gorkov, during the transition.
That interview will likely take place behind closed doors, with Kushner under oath.
Graham, the South Carolina Republican, told Business Insider that while he thought Kushner’s meeting with Kislyak was appropriate in his role as a transition official, he didn’t know much about Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov.
“He should explain what that meeting was about,” Graham said, adding that he’s generally in favor of “looking into everything” related to Russia’s election interference.
When asked if he thought an independent commission should be established to look into Russia’s efforts to undermine the election, Graham said that he did not believe that was “justified yet.”
“I think Congress can handle this,” Graham said. “If it gets to the point where we can’t, then that will be the time to establish an independent commission. But I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Graham emphasized that even though it is “important” to investigate whether any campaign ties existed between Trump and Russia, he wanted to stay focused on the “big picture” of Russia’s interference in the election.
“We need to punish Russia for what they did. Instead of focusing on the intrigue of the moment, of who met with who, we should focus on what we do know: We know that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee, we know that Russia hacked into John Podesta’s email and leaked the documents to WikiLeaks to destabilize our election. And one of the things I don’t want to lose sight of is that Russia needs to pay a price.”
Graham also said on Wednesday that he wanted to levy new sanctions on Russia for its election-related meddling, and that he hoped to have a draft sanctions bill prepared before the French elections late next month, and for the bill to be signed by Trump before the German elections in September.
Both of those moves, Graham said, would deter Russia from interfering in European elections.
“I don’t want to be on the sidelines,” Graham said. “Ronald Reagan wasn’t on the sidelines. This is as much about us as it is about Russia – if we don’t lead the free world, it will be hard for anyone to lead.”