U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday the idea of Russian involvement in U.S. election is bothersome, but he added the United States doesn't come to the table with clean hands, noting the CIA's involvement in an Italian election in the 1940s.
Grassley, R-Iowa, on a conference call with Iowa reporters, was responding to questions about new revelations that the Trump campaign had contacts with Russian intelligence agents before Election Day. The New York Times, citing unidentified sources, reported Wednesday that four Trump aides and associates had contacts with Russian agents. But the newspaper also reported those sources said they had found no evidence of collusion in order to affect the result of the election.
For months, Democrats have been raising concerns about Russian involvement in the election. Those concerns have amplified in recent days. In Iowa, the state's lone Democratic congressman, Rep. Dave Loebsack, said Wednesday that Americans are demanding accountability and a new investigation ought to be launched into the matter.
"It has become clearer with each passing day of the Trump Administration that there must be a full, independent investigation of his administration and campaign’s connection to Russia," Loebsack said.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., also has called for an independent investigation.
On the conference call Wednesday, Grassley said that Russian involvement in U.S. elections should be taken seriously, but he also added it's not new that Russia has tried to influence U.S. public opinion. He said the French are worried about Russian meddling, too. And he also told about reading how the CIA supported one political party in Italy's 1948 election, while the Soviet Union backed another.
"We don't come to this table hands free," Grassley said. Still, he added, "None of this should be going on, so the answer is, yes, it is bothersome to me."
Later, Grassley tweeted that "ANY Russian meddling in US election UNACCEPTABLE."
On the conference call, Grassley also expressed concerns about leaks to the news media, which played a part in the abrupt resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The Republican senator also said Wednesday that Flynn also had to be held to account for misleading statements to Vice President Mike Pence, which led to his resignation late Monday.
Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat, requested the Justice Department provide documents and a briefing on the circumstances leading up to Flynn's resignation.