Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner told reporters on Wednesday that, after conducting more than 100 interviews and reviewing 100,000 pages of documents, it has yet to come to a finding in its probe into whether Russia meddled in the US election to benefit one candidate over the other.
So in the spirit of being sufficiently diligent (or in forcing Trump to live under a cloud of unfounded suspicion for as long as possible), Burr and Warner announced that they’re expanding the scope of their inquiry to involve...even more interviews and document review as the fishing expedition enters month nine.
“We have interviewed every official of the Obama administration to see what clarity they had on Russian involvement…and more importantly what they did or did not do and what drove those actions.”
“We have interviewed indiviuals from around the world…it’s safe to say that the inquiry has expanded slightly…document review generated hundreds of requests on our part for information and identified leads that expanded our initial inquiry."
Burr reminded reporters that the committee had three objectives in mind when it launched the investigation: To determine if there was collusion by either the Clinton or Trump campaign, offer an assessment of the ICA – the intelligence community’s initial assessment that Russia interfered in the US election – and provide an assessment of ongoing efforts by Russia to meddle in the US political process. The committee has concluded that the ICA’s assessment is accurate – though it’s not ready to close that part of the investigation just yet.
“There are some areas of our investigation that we hope very soon will reach a definite conclusion – but we’re not there yet.”
However, one element of the investigation that has been exhaustively explored is whether President Trump intended to obstruct justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey. The committee has found nothing to support this allegation, and is moving on.
“The last thing I want to cover is the Comey memos. This topic has been hotly debated and I just want to say that our investigation into it has reached its logical end with regards to its relation to the Russia investigation.”
“Questions that you have about Comey’s firing are better answered by the general counsel of the Department of Justice, not the intelligence committee of the United States senate,” Burrs said.
Sen. Burr on Comey's memos: Panel "is satisfied that our involvement with this issue has reached a logical end" in relation to Russia probe pic.twitter.com/pudM4Mcj64— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 4, 2017
But the comment that provides perhaps the most clarity on the state of the investigation, Burr reminded reporters that the committee hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Russian entities intended to help the Clinton campaign.
"Neither Mark nor I have said that there was a campaign against one. The ICA [the intelligence community’s original assessment alleging that Russia interfered with the election] looked at Russian involvement in the election process, we’re in agreement on that. We have not come to any agreement on collusion or Russia’s preferences.”
Warner and Adam Schiff, Warner’s counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, have both called on Congress to release copies of the 3,000 “Russia ads” to the public.
In a stunning irony, just minutes after Warner appeared to purposefully mischaracterize information released by the DHS (the agency has publicly repudiated claims that the agency told state officials that it had definitely linked the attempted voting-system intrusions to Russia), the Virginia senator emphasized that while the committee is aiming to finish the investigation as quickly as possible, “following the facts” is paramount. Burr said that while the committee is shooting to finish its investigation by year’s end, the real hard deadline is the 2018 mid-terms…which means periodic “updates” like this one could continue for another year.
Reinforcing the notion that the committee has found nothing to support the collusion narrative, Burr scoffed when a reporter asked if there’s still a chance that the 2016 election might be annulled.
“All I can tell you is the votes were counted, one person won, and that’s how it’s going to stay.”
Watch the entire briefing below: