Hill Russia investigators: Committee still searching for ‘any hint of collusion’

Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr said Wednesday that the panel “has more work to do” to determine whether there was collusion between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s team during last year’s presidential election.

“The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion,” Burr said at a Capitol Hill news conference, standing alongside the committee’s top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia.

Burr said the committee has not yet to find “any hint of collusion” but it is still conducting interviews and reviewing documents. He said the committee has booked 25 additional interviews in the next month.

 

Burr also said the panel’s effort to interview Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier containing explosive allegations about Trump and top members of his campaign, have been unsuccessful and called on Steele to meet with the panel.

“The committee has hit a wall,” Burr said.

Burr said that both he and Warner made personal efforts to reach Steele, but he had not accepted their invitations. Burr said the committee “cannot decide the credibility” of the dossier without understanding who paid for it and its sources.

Burr and Warner are holding the news conference to provide a progress report on their months-long investigation that’s probing both Russia interference in the 2016 US election and whether there was collusion between members of Trump’s team and the Russian government.

CNN reported in early January that Trump was briefed on the dossier, which includes allegations about Trump’s associates, finances and personal life, and Trump has gone on to dismiss its contents entirely, dismissing them as “phony.”

Burr also said that the panel’s investigation into Russian election interference has confirmed the findings of the intelligence community, though he said that portion of the investigation has not yet closed.

Burr said the panel’s investigation into Russian election meddling has expanded since it began in January, and he hopes they will be able to have further conclusions soon.

Burr said the committee has interviewed every intelligence community official involved in drafting the report on Russian election meddling, as well as Obama administration official involved. He ticked off the amount of work the committee has done so far, including more than 100 interviews at over 250 hours, more than 4,000 transcript pages and 100,000 pages of documents reviewed.

The committee has spoken behind closed doors to members of the intelligence community as well as Trump’s inner circle, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

There are several public hearings on the horizon. The first is for Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who had been scheduled for a private staff interview last month, but the committee postponed the appearance and invited him to a public session instead after Cohen provided a statement to the media denying any collusion with Russian officials.

The Senate intelligence panel has also invited Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify at a public hearing next month on Russia’s use of social media in elections, which has become a major focus of the panel’s probe in recent weeks.

Facebook on Monday provided Congress with copies of the 3,000 Russian-linked election ads it identified, as well as data including where the ads were targeted. CNN reported Tuesday that the ads targeted crucial swing states Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Senate intelligence committee is one of three congressional panels that are investigating Russian election meddling and possible collusion, in addition to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.