PHILADELPHIA — Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Tuesday raised the prospect of sanctions against Russia if it is confirmed that the Kremlin was involved in the leak of Democratic Party emails released last weekend.
“We’ve got to look at the facts. We should investigate this issue,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Yahoo News at the Democratic National Convention. “Everybody’s at risk, not just the political parties, if a foreign entity is going to insert itself into our process.”
Van Hollen, who is expected to win a seat in the U.S. Senate this fall, called for the federal government to pursue the issue “through all legal means and, depending on where the trail leads, look at the whole toolbox of possible sanctions.”
The 57-year-old congressman said that the possibility of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election has caught him by surprise.
“It’s not something that I had foreseen, but it’s one of those things where, once it happens, you can ask yourself the question, ‘Why weren’t we ready?’” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue of the leaked emails with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a recent meeting in Laos, but did not go so far as to allege that Russia was involved.
On Sunday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, accused Russia of working through hackers to access 19,000 emails at the Democratic National Committee that were dumped into the public domain last Friday by WikiLeaks. The emails showed DNC staffers working to help Clinton’s campaign during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, despite the DNC’s publicly neutral stance.
“Russian state actors were feeding the emails to hackers for the purpose of helping Donald Trump,” said Mook.
Press accounts have backed up Mook’s assertion, but the FBI is investigating the matter, and no official findings have been announced by them or any other branch of the U.S. government.
Van Hollen also said that Sanders’ speech on the first night of the convention “went a long way” toward unifying the Democratic Party, despite the fact that many Sanders supporters booed and heckled at the mention of Clinton’s name throughout the evening.
Sanders made his plea for supporters to get behind Clinton “in a really important way,” Van Hollen said.
“He went through the key issues that brought his movement together. And on each of those issues he said, ‘Hillary Clinton stands with me or very close to me on these issues, and Donald Trump is way over here far away from me, so if you want to keep the movement going and you want to translate that movement into action, you’ve gotta support Hillary Clinton,’” Van Hollen said. “That was a very important way to present the case.”