The top Democrat on Senate Intelligence Committee says the panel has no timetable for wrapping up its ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Kremlin.
“I would love to give you a timeline,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said during a special live video taping of Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Friday. “But more important is we get it right.”
Warner, who serves as vice chairman of the committee alongside chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said that there are “literally more lines of inquiry today than there were eight or nine months ago.” The Senate probe, which began in 2017, is now in its 13th month.
“I would rather do it thoroughly than do a half-baked report that leaves a lot of questions hanging,” Warner said.
His comments came on the same day the House Intelligence Committee announced the conclusion of its investigation into Russian election interference. The committee’s final report found there was no collusion with the Trump campaign to throw the election, although Russian operatives did use social media and hacking to disrupt and discredit the electoral process. Democrats on the committee said the findings — which had been announced in general terms earlier — were premature, and more witnesses should have been called.
The House panel, led by chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., was widely criticized in February for releasing a controversial partisan memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Department of Justice. President Trump declassified the four-page memo, prepared by Nunes, and authorized its release despite warnings from current and former FBI and Justice Department officials that making it public would be reckless and dangerous.
Warner declined to say what conclusions — bipartisan or otherwise — the Senate committee might reach.
“It’s too early to tell,” Warner said. “We’ve still got a series of witnesses to see. We got thousands of additional documents just within the last two weeks.”
Warner also revealed that lawmakers have a contingency plan in place should Trump move to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal Russia probe, or Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mueller’s investigation. But he refused to speculate about the possibility of impeaching Trump.
“We have a strategy that will take place if he takes these actions,” Warner said. “But to get lured into kind of where the president’s allies want to go — to turn this election into what would happen if the Democrats take over and impeachment — that’s not where I’m headed.”
Still, Warner said that he is “constantly concerned” that Trump is going to interfere in the ongoing federal probe.
Trump’s “ad hominem attacks” on Mueller, the FBI and the Department of Justice, he said, can “lead to a destruction of a society.”
“My fear is you have at least some of the Trump allies implying that you can question the Department of Justice and others’ basic integrity,” Warner said. “That is a scary spot.”
He continued: “I think history will judge all of us in the aftermath of this president’s interference in an investigation into he and his associates’ activities potentially with a foreign power. If people are not willing to stand up and protect that investigation, and to protect trying to get the truth when our nation was attacked by another nation, then we are in a very, very frightening position.”
Warner also said the controversial dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, which contains salacious but unverified claims against Trump, has yet to be “disproven.”
“I know virtually nothing in the Steele Dossier that’s been disproven,” Warner said. “You can go through the Steele dossier and go through literally hundreds of allegations — some being salacious, some being otherwise, some being simply, ‘Was Mr. Trump in Moscow on XYZ day?’ And most of that has not been disproven.
“A real question will be: Why didn’t our intelligence community throw … amazing amounts of resourcing proving or disproving that dossier earlier?”