After roughly nine months into their investigation, leaders of the Senate intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they have not determined whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign to try and sway the 2016 presidential election, reports the Associated Press.
“The issue of collusion is still open,” said the Republican committee chairman, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who along with the panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, provided the first major update on a congressional investigation that was launched the same month as President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
“The committee continues to look at all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion,” Burr said, adding that “I am not going to even discuss initial findings, because we haven’t any.”
More than 100 witnesses have been interviewed, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, says Burr and Warner. More than 100,000 pages of documents have also been reviewed apparently.
The committee has yet to interview everyone involved with the June 2016 meeting that Kushner, Manafort and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. held with Russians. Even thought they would not tell any conclusions they have made about colluding with the Kremlin, which is the question at the heart of special consul Robert Mueller’s investigation, Burr’s and Warner’s investigation has laeft no doubt about a multi-pronged Russian effort to meddle in American politics.
“The Russian intelligence service is determined, clever and I recommend every campaign and every election official take this very seriously,” Burr said.
The news conference was to lay out what has been found so far, since the 2018 midterm elections are approaching. Burr said the committee would ideally finish the investigation before congressional primaries, but would not put a firm deadline.
“‘Warner said there is a “large consensus” that Russians had hacked into political files and strategically released them with the goal of influencing the election. He said Russian hackers had also tested the vulnerabilities of election systems in 21 states, though there’s no evidence that any voting tallies were altered,’ reports the AP.”
The Senate panel has also been searching through more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads that Facebook turned over to Congress this week. Facebook has said the ads focused on divisive social and political messages, including LGBT issues, immigration and gun rights, and were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 election.
The Senate panel has invited Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify at a public hearing next month. Facebook and Twitter both confirmed that they would testify.
One person they have “hit a wall” in trying to interview is Christopher Steele, a former British spy believed to have compiled a dossier of allegations about Trump connections to Russia.
“The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and subsources?” Burr said. Burr said he has pleaded with Steele to directly talk to the committee.
“My hope is that Mr. Steele will make a decision to meet with either Mark or I, or the committee or both so we can hear his side of it,” he told reporters, adding: “I say that to you but I also say it to Mr. Steele.”
Burr also said that multiple witnesses about an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended a foreign policy speech by Trump.
He said they have also talked to people involved with changes in the Republican party platform last year that were seen as pro-Russia, and investigated memos written by former FBI Director James Comey after his meetings with Trump.
Burr said the panel has 25 more witnesses scheduled this month. He threatened any future witnesses who may balk at the committee’s invitations with subpoenas.
“If the committee believes you have something valuable to share, I strongly suggest you come in and speak with us,” Burr said.