As Inquiry of Russia Begins, Senate Calls for Patience

WASHINGTON (CN) – One day before the committee hosts its first public hearing on its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked for public patience with its inquiry.

The committee has requested interviews with 20 people, many of whom were involved in crafting the Obama administration report on Russian attempts to influence the election through a series of coordinated hacks, Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., told reporters Wednesday.

Five of those people have dates scheduled already, with some scheduled to testify as early as next week. Burr would not go into detail about who the committee has invited to appear before them.

Others have volunteered to go before the committee as well, though White House adviser Jared Kushner was the only person Burr was willing to confirm offered to go before the panel.

Burr said that in addition, committee staff is “within weeks” of finishing its review of the thousands of pages of documents intelligence agencies have turned over to the committee as part of the investigation.

“This one’s one of the biggest investigations that the Hill has seen in my tenure here,” Burr told reporters.

The committee remains in negotiations with intelligence agencies about some documents they have not yet been able to get their hands on. Burr suggested these problems mostly come from custody issues with the agencies, such as when one is in possession of a document another agency produced.

Neither Burr nor Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, went into detail about what the investigation has found, saying the committee will follow the information wherever it leads them.

“We need to get this right, and sometimes that means, especially for somebody like me who wants things done yesterday, that it’s not going to happen as quickly as I would like or as many members of our committee would like,” Warner said. “But getting it done right is better than getting it done quickly.”

The committee will hold its first open hearing on its investigation on Thursday and will feature two panels that “will provide a foundational understanding of Russian active measures and information operations campaigns.”

Hanging over the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is the tumultuous start to its House counterpart’s inquiry. With controversy surrounding House Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes’ decision to take to the White House information he received from a source he still will not reveal, Burr and Warner sought to show their committee is on stable footing.

Warner said he has see no evidence of the White House attempting to influence the investigation, and while Burr admitted unsurprisingly that he voted for President Donald Trump in November, he was adamant that partisanship will stay away from the committee room.

“I’ve got a job in the United State Senate and I think that job is truly serious,” Burr said. “It overrides any personal belief that I have or any loyalties that I might have. Mark and I might look at politics differently, but we don’t look at the responsibilities we have on the committee differently.”

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