Almost ten months into its investigation, the Senate intelligence committee has not yet made “initial findings” on whether the Trump administration colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, its chairman said Wednesday.
“I’m not going to even discuss initial findings because we haven’t any,” Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr said during a briefing on the status of its investigation.
He said there were still a “tremendous amounts of documents” to go through, and there were 25 additional interviews scheduled for this month.
But the lack even of “initial findings” come after nine months of intensive investigations by the committee, which began on January 23.
Since then, Burr said the committee has conducted more than 100 interviews totaling 250-plus hours and 4,000 pages of transcripts, reviewed almost 100,000 pages of documents that include highly-classified intelligence reporting, emails, campaign documents and technical cyber-analysis products, and held 11 open hearings this year. He also said staffers have devoted hours to the investigation.
He said the committee has interviewed “everybody” who created the intelligence assessment in January that said Russia tried to influence the election, “every official” of the Obama administration on what they saw, and individuals from “around the world.”
Burr also said every Trump campaign official who has been invited to speak to the committee has appeared, and said they have voluntarily turned over records, including emails, text messages and phone records.
“Usually when you get things like that voluntarily somebody is probably going to tell you the truth when they answer the questions,” he said.
He said the committee continues to “look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion.”
Burr would say, however, there was a “general consensus” among the committee’s members and staff that they trust the CIA, FBI and NSA’s assessment in January, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to hurt Hillary Clinton and preferred Trump.
Burr also said the committee could certifiably say that no vote totals were affected by Russian hacking during the election.
“The tallies are accurate,” he said.
One area where the committee has “hit a wall” is with interviewing the author of the salacious anti-Trump dossier that was reportedly used by the FBI to obtain a surveillance warrant against a member of the Trump campaign.
Burr said the committee has tried on “several occasions” to contact Steele and to meet with him.
“Those offers have gone unaccepted,” he said.
“The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and sub-sources?”
He warned potential witnesses that if they don’t voluntarily speak to the committee, he would compel them to come.
“That will be… done in a very public way if in fact you turn down the private offer,” he said.
Asked about an emerging line of inquiry about Russia’s meddling — its social media campaign seeking to influence the election, Burr said its Facebook ads seem aimed at creating chaos in “every group in America,” and don’t appear to have favored the right or the left.
“It seems that the overall theme of the Russian involvement in the U.S. elections was to create chaos at every level. And I would tell you the fact that we are sitting here nine months later investigating it, they have been pretty darn successful,” he said.
Burr said he couldn’t set a date as to when the investigation would end, but said he was pleased that his committee is doing a thorough investigation.
“At the end of this process, we will be sure that we present to the American people our findings as best we have been able to accumulate them.”
But asked if there could ever be a point where Russian meddling was “so overwhelming” that it could lead to negating the results of the election, Burr said, “Maybe that’s a theory people are working under.
“All I can tell you is that the votes were counted. One person won. And that’s how it’s going to stay,” he said.