Facing an increasing public outcry, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said late Friday that his committee will investigate possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, reversing himself one day after telling reporters that the issue would be outside of his panel’s ongoing probe into Moscow’s election-disruption efforts.
According to a Politico report, Burr and the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, delivered a blow to the Trump campaign, saying in a joint statement that the committee’s probe would touch on “intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with the president-elect’s campaign” as well as Russian cyberattacks and other election meddling outlined in an intelligence report released last week.
The bipartisan Senate announcement came hours after several House Democrats aired their frustrations with FBI Director James Comey following a classified briefing on Russian election disruption.
Breaking ranks with the GOP leadership opposition, the committee will use “subpoenas if necessary” to secure testimony from Obama administration officials as well as Trump’s team, Burr and Warner said, according to Politico.
The Democrats were livid that Comey refused to confirm whether he is conducting an inquiry into potential Trump ties to Russia — a question that he publicly declined to answer earlier this week.
The joint announcement from Burr and Warner commits the Senate intelligence panel not only to probing possible Trump-Russia ties, but also to releasing “both classified and unclassified reports” that will include its conclusions and holding some open hearings. However, “the bulk of the committee’s business” during the investigation will be tackled in private, the senators said.
The Senate move also creates a split with the House, where intelligence panel chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters earlier on Friday that Congress should not be investigating any possible contacts between Russia and the Trump camp.
But for Democrats still smarting from evidence that Russia interfered in the election in an effort to boost Trump’s prospects, the Senate investigation may not be enough to assuage their anger over Comey’s decision to stay quiet on the FBI’s plans, particularly after the FBI director reopened his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before the election.
ep. John Delaney (D-Md.) explained that many questions were left unanswered. “People are upset with him,” the lawmaker said. “There were very pointed questions asked of him,” he added.