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In crusade to punish Russia, Sen. Lindsey Graham reminds people his campaign emails were also hacked

Lindsey Graham: ‘I know what I’m getting with Ted Cruz’

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. File/AP/Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham revealed months ago his presidential campaign email account was hacked.

But he's now reminding people of that breach as intelligence reveals the extent that Russia may have interfered with — and influenced the outcome of — U.S. elections, from the presidency and down the ballot.

The South Carolina Republican is including himself among those politicians targeted as he makes the rounds to argue that a congressional investigation into Russian misconduct needs to be robust, immediate and, above all else, bipartisan. 

"They're trying to get us to fight among ourselves," Graham told CNN on Wednesday night in regards to Russia. "And here's what we should do. We should tell the Russians in no uncertain terms, 'You interfered in our elections. We don't care why. We're going to hit you and hit you hard.'"

President-elect Donald Trump and many of his Republican allies are denying Russia's involvement, saying Democrats are accusing the country of bad behavior to invalidate election results that didn't favor Hillary Clinton.

Graham has said he doesn't believe Trump's victory is in doubt but insists there's no question about whether Russia attempted to tip the scales in the GOP's favor.

"I think it's ridiculous to believe they didn't," Graham said on CNN. "I have not found one person who believes that the Russians did not hack into (Clinton campaign chairman John) Podesta's e-mails, the DNC. I know they hacked into my campaign vendor. I know they have been doing this all over the world. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to understand what Russia is up to when it comes to our allies."

As one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vocal foes, Graham is also doing the media circuit to make clear that Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, needs to prove his known ties to Putin won't compromise his willingness to be tough on the foreign leader.

"I can't imagine I would vote for anybody that believes that we should not sanction Russia, given the fact that they did in fact interfere in our election," Graham said in the CNN interview.

Though Graham shared his own vulnerability to Russian hackers as proof this was not, in his words, a "Democrat/Republican" issue, he has downplayed the extent to which sensitive information was accessed as a result.

Ultimately, hackers didn't get much from the server.

According to Graham's office, certain emails sent by "low-level staffers" during the lawmaker's short-lived bid for president were accessed through a breach into the outside vendor's campaign account. Certain emails were published on DCLeaks.com, but they appear to be only press clips and schedule updates.

Unlike Podesta and various compromised Democratic National Committee officials, Graham doesn't personally send emails, meaning the chances are slim for an outsider exposing something that's politically revealing.

"I have never sent an e-mail, and I'm not about to start now," Graham said.

Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier's Washington correspondent. Reach her at 843-834-0419 and follow her @emma_dumain.

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