The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee effectively rebuked the White House Wednesday, declining to rule out whether people associated President Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
“We would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. said, standing next to ranking member Mark Warner at a press conference. “I think Mark and I are committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions.”
The White House has repeatedly pointed out that some who have seen the intelligence about this issue have said there is no evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. But Burr, a Trump supporter, opted not to draw a conclusion as the committee is in the early stages of its investigation.
Burr said the committee has devoted seven full-time staff members to the investigation, who are combing through thousands of pieces of intelligence. They have requested interviews with 20 people, five of which have been scheduled. The committee leaders declined to say who had received interview requests, apart from Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The committee is set to hold its first public hearing relating to the investigations on Thursday. They will look at Russian attempts to influence elections in other countries.
“Tomorrow’s hearing is with specifically that in mind, that we provide more public awareness, not just in this country but throughout the world, as to what Russia’s up to,” Burr said. “I think it’s safe to say that U.S. officials have pushed what we know — not we the committee, but we the government, knows about Russia’s capabilities and intent. We pushed it out to those countries that are most imminent to have elections.“
Burr noted that the first round of voting in the French presidential election is about a month away.
“I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” Burr said.
Warner raised concerns that the Russians would attempt to influence the upcoming federal elections in the United States, including the congressional elections in 2018 and the presidential election in 2020.
Asked if their investigation needed to be complete before the 2018 elections, Warner said, “We sure hope so.”