Lindsey Graham, one of the Senate GOP’s leading proponents of a select committee to investigate Russian meddling in the election, won’t be taking over a new cybersecurity panel to investigate the issue.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, confirmed on Tuesday that Graham — his good friend — would not be heading the new subcommittee devoted entirely to cyber issues, contrary to earlier statements McCain had made.
Graham’s “not going to chair the cyber panel. We’re going by seniority,” the Arizona lawmaker told POLITICO.
“Lindsey has other responsibilities on Appropriations,” McCain later told reporters.
He said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) would likely replace Graham atop the new subcommittee.
A spokesperson for the South Dakota Republican didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
McCain’s statements contradict ones he made to reporters earlier this month when he said Graham would give up his gavel on the Personnel Subcommittee to helm the new subpanel. Graham’s decision comes soon after the Senate intelligence Committee’s Republican chairman, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, reversed himself and agreed to investigate potential contacts between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign — a line of inquiry that Graham had called for pursuing.
In addition to his Armed Services subpanel, Graham also wields the gavel for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Crime and Terrorism subcommittee.
Seeking a third gavel would require a waiver from Senate leadership, but the South Carolina Republican didn’t request one, according to a spokesman. Graham would have been the only senator in the new Congress to ask for this type of waiver, the spokesman added.
Graham said he would investigate the issue of Russian hacking, which has pitted him and McCain against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, through the Judiciary panel.
“Judiciary has oversight over the FBI. That’s what I want to do there,” he told POLITICO on Tuesday.
Last week Graham signaled he planned to roll up his sleeves on the issue via Judiciary.
“I will be having oversight of the FBI’s role in what happened and what we can do in the future, and I will be talking to the FBI about what they feel comfortable discussing publicly,” he told reporters.
Rounds wrote earlier this month that Democrats and Republicans alike “are rightfully distressed” about what U.S. intelligence officials have described as a long-running Russian cyber-intrusion during the election.
“No matter which camp one is in, it should be apparent to all Americans that the United States is not immune to damaging cyber-attacks from hostile foreign nations and other bad actors,” the South Dakotan wrote in a Fox News op-ed. “We must update our national security policies to deter such attacks before a future debilitating attack occurs, possibly on civilian critical infrastructure.”
Rounds also teamed up with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) to insert a provision in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to kick-start the process of defining when an act in the digital realm constitutes an act of war.
“This is vital because, while current policies permit the Pentagon to respond to a cyber-attack against military forces, our nation does not have a clear policy to govern our response to attacks on civilian infrastructure,” he wrote in another op-ed.
“Defining when a cyber-attack requires a military response is but one in a series of steps we must take to deter our enemies from attacking the United States with this new, sophisticated form of aggression,” according to Rounds.