U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said Wednesday the committee continues to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election to help propel him to victory, adding that “a clear picture of what happened” is still developing.
“What I will confirm is the Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November’s election, and as we move into preparation for the 2018 elections,” Burr said.
Burr’s remarks came as he released an interim report on the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
Ranking Democrat Mark Warner said the federal government should take a “more aggressive whole government approach” toward Russia’s meddling, noting that electoral systems in 21 U.S. states were targeted by the Russians in the 2016 elections and some were penetrated.
Although Burr emphasized the investigation has not produced any conclusions, he believed the panel could not wait until the probe is completed before emphasizing to the public that Russia likely will interfere again.
The majority of Trump’s national security team agrees with the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had, indeed, meddled in last year’s election in favor of Trump. The president, however, has not said he believes them.
During the course of the investigation, committee members and staff investigators have conducted mostly behind-the-doors interviews with several members of Trump’s inner circle and the intelligence community.
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was interviewed, as was senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who also is Trump’s son-in-law. Others questioned were senior executives of social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, which displayed many of the Russian-supported advertisements that were intended to exacerbate divisions among voters on hot-button issues before the election.
The committee has scheduled a handful of public hearings, during which intelligence officials and the committee leaders have underscored that last year’s elections probably have encouraged Russia to interfere in future U.S. elections. The White House is not up for grabs in the 2018 elections, but the midterm contests could have an impact on control of Congress.