WASHINGTON — After saying Thursday that his panel wouldn’t be investigating potential ties between the Kremlin and the Trump team, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced Friday that they will launch a comprehensive investigation that includes “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
Burr told reporters the day before the committee announcement that he figured any such investigation would be an FBI matter rather than a congressional one. “We don’t have any authority to go to any campaign and request information that one would need to do an investigation,” he said after a closed-door briefing with intelligence officials on Capitol Hill.
In the Friday statement, Burr and Warner said that “as part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States.”
The bipartisan inquiry will review the intelligence behind the joint assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was behind election hacking with the intent to aid Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, as well as potential campaign contacts and “Russian cyber activity and other ‘active measures’ directed against the U.S., both as it regards the 2016 election and more broadly.”
The investigation will include interviews with outgoing and incoming administration officials, hearings — open, when possible — and a final report with both classified and publicly available versions, the senators said.
“We have received assurance from the Director of National Intelligence that the Intelligence Community will fully and promptly support our requests for information related to the investigation, and we have every reason to believe that commitment will be honored by the incoming administration,” Burr and Warner said. “Majority Leader McConnell and Democratic Leader Schumer have made it clear they expect any investigation into Russia’s involvement in our nation’s elections to be conducted in a bipartisan manner.”
The former vice-chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, who moved over to the Judiciary Committee as ranking member for the 115th Congress, told NBC this morning that the review led by Burr and Warner “should be full and robust with respect to who gave the order to do this, who participated in it, exactly what they did and how they carried it out and what it portends for the future.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) added that if the Intelligence Committee review doesn’t get to the bottom of what happened, “we will sing out loud and clear.”
“I am certainly not going to leave this in limbo, because this is the future of America. It’s the future of democracy,” she said. “And if we can’t carry out an election without disinformation being pumped into it by another country, we’ve got a huge destruction of our system going on.”
Asked about the committee’s probe on CBS this morning, Vice President-elect Pence said he and President-elect Trump “welcome the Congress doing its oversight work in this and any other area.”
“And we look forward to the results of their inquiry. But make no mistake about it. I think they will find what the publicly released intelligence report showed before is that there is no evidence of any impact on voting machines,” Pence said. “Donald Trump won this election fair and square, 30 out of 50 states, more counties than any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan.”
Face the Nation host John Dickerson asked Pence if “any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election.”
“Well, of course not,” Pence replied. “And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”