FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill. Comey said Tuesday his agency takes the threat of Russian election hacking "very, very seriously." File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Responding to reports that two states had election databases hacked, FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday the agency takes such threats "very, very seriously" amid calls by a top Democrat to investigate the matter before the election.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said in a letter to Comey the government should open an investigation into alleged election tampering by Russian spies.
Reid's letter comes as reports surfaced that voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona were hacked. The FBI said it is possible the Russian government was behind the data breach and encouraged all states to take additional action to secure online data in advance of November's election.
"I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results," Reid wrote to Comey. "The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to us every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly and in a timely fashion."
Comey responded Tuesday, saying, "we take very seriously any effort by any actor to influence the conduct of affairs in our country, whether that's an election or something else."
Reid also cited the hacking of the Democratic National Committee by suspected Russian actors. The hackers gained access to internal Democratic Party information and staff emails, portions of which were made public by WikiLeaks on the eve of the party's convention.
The leaked emails proved embarrassing to DNC officials after they showed staff members discussing ways to support Hillary Clinton and harm Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary.
The DNC is supposed to remain neutral during party primaries but the Sanders campaign repeatedly accused the DNC of putting a thumb on the scales to benefit Clinton in behind-the-scenes politicking.
DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned over the scandal, and several top DNC staff members quit or were fired, as well.
The FBI has said it is likely the hack of Democratic Party groups extended well beyond the DNC and could have included the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Association and individuals on the Clinton campaign.
Reid said the FBI should look into the full scope of the hacking and make its findings public before the election.
"The American people deserve to have a full understanding of the facts from a completed investigation before they vote this November," Reid said.