'Issue of collusion' with Russia still open, Senate intel chief says
The Senate Intelligence Committee gave a detailed update today.
— -- The top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee gave a detailed update on the panel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election today, saying that the "issue of collusion" with Russia remains open.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the committee, went through a number of issues that the investigators have looked into and the breadth of their search.
Burr said the "general consensus" of those involved with the Russian investigation, they "trust the conclusions" of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA). The assessment concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to undermine the U.S. election and favor then-candidate Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Burr said that the committee believes "the Russian intelligence service is determined, clever," and something that campaigns should be wary of in any future elections.
Regarding possible collusion, Burr said, "We continue to investigate both intelligence and witnesses."
Ranking committee member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said that there is a "large consensus that they hacked into political files, released those files in an effort to influence the election. We think they [Russian actors] actively tried to at least test the vulnerabilities of 21 states electoral systems and we feel that they used the social media firms both in terms of paid advertising, and what I believe is more problematic ... created false accounts."
Burr reiterated that "no vote totals were affected" but stressed that the Russian interference in U.S. elections is ongoing and will continue in subsequent elections.
He listed three areas where they have exhausted their investigations but did not make any conclusive statements about any of them. The topics included a campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel when some Trump campaign officials met with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislak, the drafting of the Republican Party campaign platform as it related to relations with Russia, and the memos taken by former FBI director James Comey.
Burr later said that they will not be releasing Facebook ads that were paid for by Russian entities.
In addition to interviewing members of the Trump and Clinton presidential campaigns, they have also interviewed "every official of the Obama administration to fully understand what they saw ... and more importantly what they did and did not do and what drove those actions," Burr said.
Beyond American politicians, they also interviewed "literally individuals around the world," Burr said.