WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, says he expects that he and the Republican chair, Sen. Richard Burr, will reach agreement on a final report in their Russia investigation that can be released in the coming months.
“Chairman Burr and I have worked together on all of these, and I expect us to still be in agreement on volume five,” Warner told the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast.
Last Tuesday, the Senate Intel Committee issued its fourth report in the series, backing the U.S. intelligence community’s findings concluding that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump. But the fifth report — focusing on links between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign — is by far the most controversial and the most likely to divide the panel along partisan lines.
The fifth report is 95 percent complete and should be released in the next couple of months, Warner said. He said he could not speak for how every committee member will vote on it.
“I’m very proud of the fact that our committee has stayed bipartisan — three years of an investigation, four reports — all unanimous,” Warner said. “Russia intervened in 2016, they did it to help Trump, to hurt Clinton. They did it using social media, they did it in terms of trying to manipulate our elections, and they will be back. And that is a critical item that we need to keep front and center, particularly when our attention can be taken up by COVID-19.”
Burr’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News.
Previous investigative reports issued by the committee have probed Russian efforts to penetrate state election systems and manipulate social media. A third investigated the Obama administration’s hands-off approach as Russia interfered.
Warner also said he is deeply concerned about Trump’s firing of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who insisted lawmakers be told about a whistleblower complaint involving the Ukraine. The whistleblower complaint ultimately sparked impeachment proceedings against Trump.
“There is not a single Senate-appointed individual in the Director of National Intelligence Office at this moment,” Warner said. “Anyone that’s been there that was Senate-appointed has been fired or forced to resign. And my fear is that this administration and this White House does not want the intelligence community to continue to speak truth to power.
“When you speak truth to power you can pay with your job,” Warner said.
He cited last year’s resignation of Sue Gordon, who served as the principal deputy director of national intelligence, and the February ouster of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, whose staffer had told Congress that Russia preferred Trump’s reelection.
“The FBI, the CIA and the NSA: I am increasingly fearing that they may be bending, starting to bend their will towards what is a very, very political agenda that’s coming out of the White House and what’s coming out of the acting director for national intelligence — who has no background in intelligence, by the way,” Warner said.
The wide-ranging interview also covered the coronavirus pandemic. Warner said he did not receive briefings in January that differed much from media reports. He said the first time he received a briefing on pandemic preparedness was in late January or early February.
“Obviously, we were not as prepared as we should have been or could have been, but there was nothing that was some bright, shiny object that was floating around,” he said. “There was no kind of ‘Holy heck!’ moment that was that much different from what was being received in the public reporting.”
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