Politics

Intelligence Committee Backs Spy Agencies on Russia Conclusions

Senate panel is keeping its own Russia inquiry open

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Mark Warner, left, and Richard M. Burr, right, say their panel overall agrees with U.S. spy agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said a “general consensus among members and staff” is that an intelligence community conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is accurate, but the panel will keep the investigation open.

President Donald Trump has yet to voice support for the intelligence assessment. He has sought to investigate potential voter fraud in the past election.

Wednesday’s announcement by Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel’s top Democrat, marks a rare public update of the chamber’s ongoing Russia investigation.

The panel’s inquiry into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, one of its main focus points, also remains ongoing.

Lessons From 44 Years of Special Investigations 

“I’m not going to even discuss initial findings,” Burr said.

The panel has interviewed over 100 people, spanning over 250 hours and generating 4,000 pages of transcript.

Four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency — have all stated that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

During the two senators’ press conference, Warner took specific issue with the federal response to the hacking into several states’ electoral systems, including how long it took to identify the states that were actually targeted.

“It took 11 months for the Department of Homeland Security to reveal those 21 states,” the Virginia Democrat said. “There needs to be a more aggressive whole government approach to protecting our electoral system.”

The duo also discussed the ongoing investigation into Russia’s use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Warner said he believes the tech companies did not initially recognize the extent of the influence by a foreign government on their platforms.

“l believe they are recognizing that threat now,” he said.

Burr said the panel has no intention of releasing any of the social media ads under investigation.

“We don’t release documents,” the North Carolina Republican said. “It’s not a practice that we are going to get into.”

Burr also addressed an explosive, but unverified, dossier from former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that included a number of salacious details regarding Trump’s connections with Russia.

“We have on several occasions made attempts to contact Mr. Steele,” he said. “These offers have gone unaccepted.”

Burr said the committee cannot decide on its own the credibility of the document without understanding who paid for it, or which sources Steele used to compile it.

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