Senate Intel Chair Says Russia Probe Could Wrap Up Within Months
The Senate Intelligence Committee could finish up its investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign within the next few months, the chairman of the panel said in a new interview.
“I’m still hopeful that we can bring finality to this by the end of the year,” North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr told The New York Times in a podcast interview, adding, “but I also can’t anticipate anything new that might come up that we don’t know today that would extend it by a month or two months.”
That’s the most concrete timetable offered yet in any of the investigations looking into Russian meddling and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The House Intelligence Committee, Senate Judiciary Committee and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are investigating the same matters.
Burr says that the investigation has been prolonged because investigators have been provided new names, and new documents that have created new investigative leads.
“What continues this investigation are the names of individuals that we didn’t know at the time, the documents that we weren’t aware of, the communications, the cables, the emails, the phone logs of individuals that we wouldn’t have thought then that we needed to interview or to look at their records,” Burr said.
He also revealed that the committee has interviewed nearly 100 people so far, more than double the number reported several months ago.
The committee, which is co-chaired by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, has interviewed members of the intelligence community, members of the Trump campaign, and former advisers to President Obama. Most of the interviews and testimony have been conducted in private, though former FBI Director James Comey did testify before the panel in public in June. He met in a closed, classified session just after that hearing.
The committee also recently met with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. Of interest to the committee is a June 9, 2016 meeting that the two attended with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney who was said to have opposition research on Hillary Clinton.
Senate investigators are also looking at more peripheral players in the Trump orbit.
As The Daily Caller reported last month, the panel invited conservative opposition researcher Chuck Johnson to meet with investigators. They want to discuss a project that Johnson worked on during the campaign to hunt down the 33,000 emails that Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server. (RELATED: Senate Intel Committee Wants To Interview Chuck Johnson As Part Of Trump-Russia Probe)
Johnson worked with Peter Smith, an 81-year-old equity fund manager and Republican operative, to obtain the emails from foreign hackers who claimed to have them. Smith, who died by suicide in May, reportedly suggested that former national security adviser Michael Flynn or his associates were involved in the project.
Smith did not obtain the Clinton documents.
Burr told The Times that he plans to release a public report on the committee’s findings at the end of the investigation.
“The conclusion of this investigation has to have a public disclosure for the American people to look at what we found and to make their own assessment, not necessarily for there to be groupthink within Congress and us to have a kumbaya moment,” he told the newspaper. “It is to present the facts to the American people.”
But he also suggested that his committee’s probe is far more advanced than the other three being conducted, including Mueller’s.
“I’m not sure that anybody that’s got an investigation going on is currently anywhere near where we are in this process,” said Burr, who kicked off the investigation in January.
The House Intelligence investigation also began in January, but it has been marred by more infighting between Democrats and Republicans than has the Senate panel. The Senate Judiciary Committee began its investigation in earnest only recently, and Mueller’s inquiry officially began in May, when he was appointed special counsel.
Burr said that the Senate panel has an edge on others because its investigators are already familiar with intelligence community products.
“They had no learning curve that they had to go through. They have been able to read intelligence products and understand what they meant. I am sure Bob Mueller is going through a situation with the special counsel’s office where he is bringing in lawyers that have never read an intelligence report, who are having to turn to somebody to get them to explain what it means,” he said.