Russia has tried to interfere in elections for "years," Democratic senator says

By Emily Schultheis

/ CBS News

Sen. Klobuchar interview

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), who just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe, said Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election goes far beyond Election Day here at home — that it’s something Russia has been doing around the world for “years.”

“This isn’t just about one cyber-hacking incident in America, this is not just about one political party, one candidate,” she told CBSN’s Elaine Quijano in an interview for CBSN’s new daily political show “Red & Blue.” “It isn’t even about one country, it’s a common modus operandi they’ve been using for years.”

CBSN Interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar, who visited Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro with a congressional delegation, said the extent of the issue “really hit home” for her on her Eastern European trip, noting all the ways Russia has worked to destabilize countries in the region. She noted that with upcoming elections in France and Germany this year, it’s important to take action to curb Russia’s attempts at election interference.

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“You just don’t want people influenced by things that are either fake news or that come as a result of a cyber-hack,” she said.

Klobuchar also cited Republicans like Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and their strong words on the subject of Russia as evidence this is not a partisan issue.

“Sen. McCain is a former Republican candidate for president — the fact that he is so out front on this should show the American people that this really isn’t about one political party, this is a real security concern for America,” she said. “When you start messing around with our own elections … you start messing around with what’s at the heart of our country, and that’s a democratic system.”

Julian Assange and Donald Trump say Russia was not behind DNC hack

She added that the Obama administration’s newly announced sanctions against Russia were designed to protect the country from any foreign entity interfering in U.S. elections, not just Russia.

“I would think the Trump administration would not reverse that, they would welcome that,” she said. “…In the future, if this ever happens again, we would want any president to be able to quickly respond.”

On the same day President Obama went to Capitol Hill to huddle with Democrats about ways to protect the Affordable Care Act in the new Congress, Klobuchar said Mr. Obama said the law isn’t perfect and should be reformed — but that Republicans must present a viable alternative before scrapping it completely.

“He also mentioned something that I deeply believe in: that there are reforms we can make to the bill,” she said. “In my mind … the bill has been a beginning and not an end.”

“I think his message was if you’re going to repeal this, you sure better have something to replace it with,” she added. “And right now we’re not seeing that from the Republicans.”

Klobuchar also addressed the process for vetting and confirming Mr. Trump’s Cabinet nominees, which is already getting underway. But before the Senate can formally approve any of Mr. Trump’s nominees, Klobuchar said they’re still waiting on information from many of the prospects.

She said that at last count just three of Mr. Trump’s nominees had turned in their ethics forms, and that the Senate only had a “smattering” of FBI background checks for the prospective Cabinet members.

“What we’re asking for here are things that have been asked for in the past and expected,” she said.

First published on January 4, 2017 / 11:03 PM

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Schultheis

Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.

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