WASHINGTON – The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate possible contacts between Russia and the people associated with U.S. political campaigns as part of a broader investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In a statement late Friday, Sens. Richard Burr. R-N.C., the committee’s chairman, and Mark Warner, D-Va., the panel’s top Democrat, said the panel “will follow the intelligence where it leads.”
Burr and Warner said that as part of the investigation they will interview senior officials from the Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration. They said subpoenas would be issued “if necessary to compel testimony.”
“We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right,” the senators said.
A declassified intelligence report released last week said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence the election to favour President-elect Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, revelations that have roiled Washington.
Trump and his supporters have staunchly resisted the findings and Trump has levelled a series of broadsides at U.S. intelligence agencies, even though he’ll have to rely on their expertise to help him make major national security decisions once he takes over at the White House next week. He will be sworn in Jan. 20.
At a news conference this week, Trump speculated that U.S. intelligence agencies might have leaked details about a classified briefing with him that included unsubstantiated allegations that Russia had collected compromising sexual and financial information about him.
He said any such information was not true: “It’s all fake news. It’s phoney stuff. It didn’t happen.”
The bulk of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s work will be done in secret, although the senators said they will hold open hearings when possible.
“As the committee’s investigation progresses, we will keep Senate leadership, and the broader body, apprised of our findings,” Burr and Warner said.
Democrats and some Republicans have pressed for a special, select bipartisan committee to conduct the investigation, but Republican leaders have maintained that the existing committees are capable of handling the inquiries.
According to the committee’s statement, the inquiry will include:
• A review of the intelligence that informed the declassified report about Russia’s interference in the election.
• “Counterintelligence concerns” related to Russia and the election, “including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
• Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” against the United States during the election and more broadly.