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Senators Call For New Cyber Security Committee To Focus On Russian Hack

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jack Reed and Sen. Lindsey Graham are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a Senate committee to exclusively focus on developing legislation surrounding cyber security in the United States.

The call to action comes after demands for a CIA investigation into whether Russia interfered in the November election on behalf of  president-elect Donald Trump.

"Russia is the most serious problem," Schumer said. "Even the public reports make it clear that they hacked our political system in the DNC. It's becoming clearer that their intent was to influence the election."

In a letter sent to McConnell, the politicians argue that a separate Select Committee on Cyber is needed to help streamline issues currently handled by other committees.

"Despite the good work that these and other committees have done on their own, cyber is the rare kind of all-encompassing challenge for which the Congress's jurisdictional boundaries are an impediment to sufficient oversight and legislative action," the joint statement read. "Only a select committee that is time-limited, cross-jurisdictional, and purpose-driven can address the challenge of cyber."

According to the letter, the temporary committee would primarily focus on conducting "a comprehensive investigation of Russian interference." It would also focus on the issue of cyber security in the United States as a whole.

"Upon completion of these tasks, this select committee could be disestablished,' the letter read.

The CIA recently concluded with "high confidence" that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election on behalf of Trump, raising red flags among lawmakers concerned about the sanctity of the U.S. voting system and potentially straining relations at the start of Trump's administration.

Sources told CBS News the attack could not have happened without Russian President Vladimir Putin's blessing saying, "The orders to do it would have had to come from the highest level."

Trump's incoming chief-of-staff Reince Preibus said the president-elect isn't ready to accept the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking the Democratic Party's private communications.

Priebus told "Fox News Sunday" that intelligence officials "haven't been totally upfront and transparent in their opinion as to who, what, when and how this all happened."

He says even if Moscow did interfere, Democrats still lost because they're out of touch with voters.

Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager and top adviser to Trump, said that the president-elect "respected" President Barack Obama's decision to investigate the nature and extent of Russia's influence on the election. However, Conway also questioned the nature of Obama's motives, CBS News reported.

"But it's very clear that President Obama could have quote 'retaliated' months ago, if they were actually concerned about this quote 'affecting' the election," Conway said in an interview on CBS "Face the Nation." "Whatever his motives are, whatever his action is, we'll respect it as Americans. That doesn't mean that new President Trump will agree with it."

In a tweet on Thursday, Trump also questioned the motives of the White House in calling for an investigation into the alleged hacking.

The White House has suggested Donald Trump knew Russia was behind the hacks when he invited the country to find Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's missing emails.

In his final news conference of the year, Obama defended his response to the hacks, saying "I wanted to make sure that everybody understood that we were playing this straight."

He said his administration chose not to retaliate during the election because he didn't want to turn the hacks into a partisan issue.

"My principle goal leading up to the election was making sure that the election itself went off without a hitch, that it was not tarnished, and that it did not feed any sense in the public that somehow tampering had taken place with the actual process, and we accomplished that," he said.

U.S. intelligence is working against a deadline of Jan. 20, the day President Obama leaves office and President-elect Trump takes over – to complete the investigation Obama ordered into the alleged hacking.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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