House, Senate go different ways on probe of election meddling by Russia

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections vowed at a joint news conference on Wednesday to conduct a thorough and bipartisan probe, clearly setting themselves apart from their House counterparts, who are locked in a bitter, partisan struggle over the course of their review.

“The committee will go wherever the intelligence leads us,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“We’re here to assure you – and more importantly the American people who are watching and listening – that we will get to the bottom of this,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on that panel.

Without going into much detail on who might be in for questioning when by the committee, Burr and Warner set out the basics of their probe, saying seven full-time staff members are spending weeks going through documents of the Intelligence Community on what Russia did in 2016.

Burr described the review as, “challenging to say the least,” as both men made clear this was turning out to be maybe their most important duty – ever – in the Congress.

“This is one of the biggest investigations that the Hill has seen in my tenure here,” said Burr, who was first elected to the Congress in 1994.

The cooperation among members on the Senate Intelligence Committee stands in stark contrast to the infighting and finger pointing going on across the Capitol on the House Intelligence Committee.

“Our investigation is stalled,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), as he blamed panel chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for canceling a variety of meetings set for this week.

“I think he needs to recuse himself,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) said of Nunes, as Democrats furiously contend that the sprint by Nunes to brief President Trump last week on intelligence – which he still has not shared with his committee – signals something is wrong.

On the other side in the House, Republicans don’t see anything wrong with the work of Nunes, and argue Democrats are pushing conspiracy theories that have no evidence behind them.

“This is media speculation being fueled by Democrats,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

But over on the Senate side of the Capitol, some fellow Republicans have made clear their displeasure with the actions of Nunes over the last week – and at today’s news conference – Burr and Warner made clear they were running a different operation.

“We’re not asking the House to play any role in our investigation, and we don’t plan to play any role in their investigation,” Burr told reporters.

Thursday will bring a public hearing for the Senate Intelligence Committee that will focus on what Russia has been up to on the internet, using the opportunity to warn European nations what they may face when they hold elections in coming months.

“I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” Burr said, giving one example.

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