WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins – one of President-elect Donald J. Trump's strongest defenders – strongly disagreed Monday with the top Republicans in the House and Senate, who both called for bipartisan congressional investigations into possible Russian influence on the November election.
"I don't think it's a good idea and here's why," Collins, R-Clarence, said. "The election is over and Trump has won, and I think it's time to unite the country and to say that Donald Trump is our president ... The sooner we can move the entire country into recognizing the results of the election, the better."
In contrast to Collins, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Sunday joined another top Democrat and two senior Republican senators in calling for a bipartisan investigation into possible Russian hacking and its role in the election. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also called for a bipartisan probe. And both Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said Monday that they support such investigations as well.
But in a phone interview, Collins repeatedly returned to his call for uniting the country, while also noting that he's glad that WikiLeaks released Democratic National Committee emails that had been uncovered by hackers. A secret CIA assessment, revealed in news stories over the weekend, said Russian hackers uncovered those emails and turned them over to WikiLeaks to help Trump win the presidency over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Collins said of the DNC emails: "I'm saying thank heavens the revelations came out. The truth came out. You have to say: can you imagine an election won because of lies, deceit and underhanded despicable actions?"
Collins said the actions detailed in those emails – which show DNC officials favoring Clinton over her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but that never directly implicate Clinton – "make Dick Nixon look like an altar boy."
Richard M. Nixon, the 37th president, resigned in 1974 after being implicated in the cover-up of a 1972 break-in at DNC headquarters. The scandal resulted in guilty pleas or convictions of 48 people, including several of Nixon's top aides. Nixon himself might have been charged if his successor, President Gerald Ford, had not pardoned the former president.
Asked if he thought the DNC's actions were more important than a foreign power's possible meddling in a U.S. election, Collins noted that hacking is a common occurrence.
"It's not for sure that Russia did this hacking," said Collins. "The CIA seems to think so, the FBI not so much. But in the end the truth came out: the cesspool of Democrat committee actions."
Collins was the first House member to back Trump and has been a frequent "surrogate" defending the president-elect on national TV.
Reed was a relatively early Trump supporter, too, but he offered a far different take on possible bipartisan investigations into possible Russian hacking aimed at influencing the election.
"We need to make sure they're looked at," Reed said of the allegations. "But I'm very confident in this election. I'm confident that any kind of breach has not impacted the election results."
Both House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Monday backed bipartisan investigations of the matter.
"Any foreign intervention in our elections is entirely unacceptable," Ryan said in a statement.
"This is a cyber attack on our most important American institution: our democracy," said Higgins, who called for "a bipartisan congressional investigation that is rigorous and comprehensive."
That's just what Schumer, along with Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republicans John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (S.C.) called for on Sunday.
Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, said Monday he was glad McConnell agreed an investigation is needed.
"This issue should not and must not turn into a political football," Schumer said. "It’s absolutely essential that this investigation be bipartisan, wide-ranging and have access to all of the relevant intelligence so that we can find out how this happened, and how we can stop it from happening ever again.”
Gillibrand said much the same thing.
“I am deeply troubled by reports of Russian interference in our presidential election and I support bipartisan calls for a select committee investigation so we can get to the bottom of what happened and if there was interference, make sure it never happens again," Gillibrand said, in a statement.