Senators: No limits to Russia probe
UNITED STATES: The Senate Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential election will be ‘‘one of the biggest investigations’’ in years and has already involved an ‘‘unprecedented’’ level of co-operation between Congress and US spy agencies, the panel’s chairman said yesterday.
At a Capitol Hill news conference, the committee chairman, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, emphasised the bipartisan nature of the panel’s efforts, drawing a determined, though unstated, contrast with the partisan dysfunction of a parallel investigation in the House. The two insisted the Senate committee would carry out a full, unfettered investigation of Russian efforts to influence the presidential election and any potential ties to Donald Trump’s campaign. The committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing today, its first in the current investigation.
‘‘The committee will go wherever the intelligence leads us,’’ Burr said.
Burr pointedly refused to endorse White House statements that investigators eventually would find that there was no collusion between the campaign and the Russians. ’’It would be crazy to try to draw any conclusions’’ at this point, Burr said. ‘‘We know that our challenge is to answer that question to the American people,’’ he added, referring to the issue of Trump’s involvement.
Warner praised Burr and said Americans should ‘‘not lose sight of what the investigation is about: An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process, the election for president,’’ and ‘‘favour one candidate over another.’’
‘‘They didn’t do it because it was in the best interest of the American people,’’ Warner said. Russian President ‘‘Vladimir Putin’s goal is a weaker United States.’’
The Russian action ‘‘should be a concern to all Americans regardless of party affiliation,’’ he added.
The investigation on the House side has been stalled since the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., cancelled a hearing that had been planned for Wednesday at which former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was scheduled to testify.
In late January, Yates had blown the whistle on retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s national security adviser at the time. Yates told White House officials that Flynn had misled his colleagues, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, officials said.
Trump fired Flynn a few weeks later when news reports disclosed the nature of his meetings with Kislyak. Yates’ allies said she had planned to give the committee additional details related to Flynn.
Nunes’ decision to cancel the hearing came after a lawyer for Yates said in letters to the Justice Department that the Trump administration had tried to place ‘‘constraints’’ on her testimony by asserting her actions as deputy attorney general were ‘‘client confidences’’ that could not be disclosed without written approval.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the White House did not interfere with Yates’ plans to testify and wanted her to speak publicly. - TNS
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), left, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), vice chairman of the committee, hold a news conference to discuss their probe of Russian interference.