Senate Intel Committee Chiefs Contradict Trump: Russia’s Election Meddling Not a Hoax
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner D-VA) Wednesday contradicted President Trump’s repeated assertions that U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was a hoax.
The senators said intelligence revealed Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Even more than that, the senators said Russia’s meddling did not end after the 2016 elections and will likely continue into the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections.
“We know the Russian meddling did not end after the elections. It continued. They also tried to meddle in elections in France, Germany and other places. We need to be on guard,” Sen. Warner, Senate intelligence committee ranking member said.
The senate intelligence leaders revealed that during the course of their investigations, committee staff conducted over 100 interviews, reviewed 100,000 documents and have gone through over 4,000 transcripts.
Sen. Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the committee has exhausted its probe of former FBI director James Comey’s email issue. They referred further inquiries to special counsel Robert Mueller III.
Sen. Burr confirmed that the committee trusts findings from the intelligence community on Russia’s meddling, in contradiction to President Trump who has repeatedly called any report to that effect a hoax. “We have more work to do as it relates to collusion,” Burr said.
Saying that collusion between Russia and Trump campaign was a “concern we continue to pursue,” both senators confirmed they were expanding that area of their probe while adding that Russia used paid advertisements “and created false social media accounts to drive divisions.” Facebook advertisements linked to Russian operatives were said to have targeted at least 12 states.
“We know the Russian meddling did not end after the elections. It continued. They also tried to meddle in elections in France, Germany and other places. We need to be on guard,” Sen. Warner, intelligence committee ranking member said.
On the dossier created by former British spy Christopher Steele, the senators said they have hit a wall in their attempt to authenticate the truthfulness of the document or its findings. They announced they are having difficulty meeting with dossier author to get him to answer their questions.
CNN reported earlier this year that U.S. intelligence officials collaborated some aspects of Christopher Steele’s findings though not some of the more salacious allegations like the link between Trump and Russian prostitutes.
The FBI has also reportedly used some materials from the dossier in its successful request for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Trump’s personal friend and associate, Carter Page.
Russian ads on Facebook targeted Americans in a number of states including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. The goal was to depress turnout of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s supporters while boosting voter participation for Donald Trump’s campaign.
Senator Burr said that Russia also created false accounts to “drive interests toward stories or groups … to drive division.” The ads were on a range of issues including immigration, second amendment, race issues and refugees.
Sen. Warner expressed disappointment that it took the Department of Homeland Security 11 months to release the names of the 21 states targeted by Russia during the election, stressing that “we can do better than that.”
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