Sen. Ted Cruz is side-stepping calls from two Democratic senators to investigate Republican nominee Donald Trump's recent remarks about Russia.
Cruz, a Texas Republican who lost this year's GOP primary to Trump, chairs the oversight subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sent Cruz an open letter Wednesday demanding a probe of Trump's "encouragement" of Russia. Coons is the
top Democrat on the sub-panel, while Whitehouse is a former U.S. attorney and
state attorney general.
Both senators’ offices said Friday they had not received a response. A request for comment to Cruz’s office went unreturned, as did a request to the Trump campaign. Cruz has not responded publicly.
The dust-up follows comments Trump made at a July 27 press conference, in which he appeared to invite Russia to turn over emails Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton either deleted or did not save for federal agents from her private email server.
“Russia, if you are listening. I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump told reporters. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Trump’s campaign later said he was merely being “sarcastic,” and his campaign said the billionaire and reality TV star was not calling for Russian involvement in the November U.S. election.
But Coons and Whitehouse said they want to know if any laws were broken and whether existing U.S. law is sufficient to prevent a foreign hack attempt.
“Mr. Trump’s apparent encouragement of a foreign cyberattack on presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, is dangerous and irresponsible,” the senators wrote to Cruz. “We ask that you conduct an oversight hearing to determine whether existing federal criminal statutes and federal court jurisdictions sufficiently address conduct related to foreign entities that could undermine our elections.”
The letter cites national security-expert warnings about Russia’s cyber espionage program, including a 2009 National Intelligence Estimate that said Russia had the most “robust, longstanding program that combines a patient, multidisciplinary approach to computer network operations with proven access and tradecraft.”
Such a hearing could prove dramatic, given the bad blood between Cruz and Trump after a bruising primary campaign. Trump questioned Cruz’s U.S. citizenship, mocked him as “Lyin’ Ted,” tweeted out an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife Heidi, and floated the idea that Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He later moderated those positions and complimented Cruz as “a hell of a competitor.”
Last month, Cruz cited those actions by Trump after refusing to endorse the nominee during a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, prompting angst from GOP leaders and anger from Trump supporters.