Sen. Graham: 'I'm Ready to Throw a Rock' at Russia

By Susan Jones | January 5, 2017 | 12:10pm EST
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, right, with Defense Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre II, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: "Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States." (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( - Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), known for his blunt questioning of witnesses who come before the Armed Services Committee, said on Thursday that he's "ready to throw a rock" at Russia.

"When it comes to espionage, we better be careful about throwing rocks. When it comes to interfering in our election, we better be ready to throw rocks," Graham said.

"I think what Obama did is throw a pebble. I'm ready to throw a rock," the long-time critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin told members of the U.S. intelligence community who were sitting before him.

Graham said President Obama has not been "aggressive" enough in sanctioning Russia for its attempt to interfere in the U.S. election. Obama recently expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian installations in the U.S.

"So to those of you who want to throw rocks, you're going to get a chance here soon. And if we don't throw rocks, we're going to make a huge mistake."

Graham said the U.S. has a chance, as a nation, "to lay down a marker for all would-be adversaries," such as Iran and China, who might try to do what he believes Russia has done.

Graham also had a message for President-elect Trump:

"As we go forward and try to deter this (hacking) behavior, we're going to need your support, now and in the future," Graham told Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other members of the intelligence community. "So I want to let the President-elect know, it's okay to challenge the intel. You're absolutely right to want to do so.

"But what I don't want you to do is undermine those who are serving our nation in this arena until you are absolutely sure they need to be undermined. And I think they need to be uplifted, not undermined."

Graham said members of the intelligence community do not wear uniforms, "but you're in the fight. And we're in a fight for our lives."

“I just got back from the Baltics -- Ukraine and Georgia,” Graham continued. “If you think it's bad here, you ought to go there. So, ladies and gentlemen, it is time now not to throw pebbles, but to throw rocks.

“I wish we were not here. If it were up to me, we would all live in peace. But Putin's up to no good, and he better be stopped, and Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand, they're the best among us and they're trying to protect us.”

Asked by Committee Chair John McCain if he had "any response to that diatribe," Clapper said, "I find myself in complete agreement with what he just said, and I appreciate it."

Press reports on Thursday said Trump is considering plans to restructure the intelligence community.

Trump has been criticized for questioning the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian hackers, acting on Putin’s order, hacked Democrats’ emails before the election.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, "Julian Assange said 'a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!"

In two tweets on Thursday, Trump said: “The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange - wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against 'Intelligence' when in fact I am a big fan!"

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