Former Vice President Joe Biden said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan statement condemning Russian interference in the 2016 election, causing the Obama administration to be hesitant about speaking out against the country’s roll in trying to disrupt the process.
Biden, speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations on Tuesday, said McConnell refused to join the administration in condemning Russia’s election meddling. Without bipartisan support, the administration felt any public acknowledgment would be colored by politics.
“Can you imagine if the president called a press conference in October, with this fella, Bannon, and company, and said, ‘Tell you what: Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it,'” Biden said, according to Politico. “What do you think would have happened? Would things have gotten better, or would it further look like we were trying to delegitimize the electoral process, because of our opponent?”
McConnell disputed Biden’s claims, saying a letter was sent by all Senate leadership to the National Association of State Election Directors about cybersecurity measures ahead of election day, Politico reported. The letter does not mention Russia.
Biden’s remarks back up previous claims about congressional partisan squabbles regarding Russia’s interference ahead of the 2016 election.
In an expose by the Washington Post in June, it was reported that McConnell voiced “skepticism” that evidence supported that Russia was interfering in the election during a meeting with several high ranking intelligence officials and Congressional leaders where Democrats wanted to “tell the public.”
An Obama official told Politico the administration wanted any public statement about Russia’s election to be bipartisan because “we needed the buy-in from state and local election administrators (many of whom were Republican partisans and/or skeptical of federal government).”
In January a declassified intelligence report said Russia’s “goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process” with “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”