For skeptics who don’t accept the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s intelligence services, the GRU and the SVR, to meddle in last year’s US election—and there are, indeed, skeptics, including on the left—the ICA got some strong support on Wednesday from three leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Since January, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) have spent countless hours digging into the ICA, along with questions of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and yesterday we got the first glimpse into what they’ve found.
In a joint news conference, Senator Richard Burr, SSCI’s chairman and a conservative Republican from North Carolina, and Senator Mark Warner, a moderate Democrat from Virginia, described SSCI’s work so far. Since January 23, they said, the committee and its staff have conducted more than 100 interviews, comprising 250 hours of testimony and resulting in 4,000 pages of transcripts, and reviewed more than 100,000 documents relevant to Russiagate. The staff, said Warner, has collectively spent a total of 57 hours per day, seven days a week, since the committee opened its inquiry, going through documents and transcripts, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing both classified and unclassified material.
“We have interviewed everybody who had a hand or a voice in the creation of the ICA,” said Burr. “We’ve spent nine times the amount of time that the IC [intelligence community] spent putting the ICA together.… We have reviewed all the supporting evidence that went into it and, in addition to that, the things that went on the cutting-room floor that they may not have found appropriate for the ICA, but we may have found relevant to our investigation.” Burr added that the committee’s review included “highly classified intelligence reporting,” and they’ve interviewed every official in the Obama administration who had anything to do with putting it together.
The bottom line? Burr said that while SSCI isn’t yet prepared to announce its conclusions, especially when it comes to whether or not Team Trump colluded with the Russians—“the issue of collusion is still open,” he said—“we feel very confident that the ICA’s accuracy is going to be supported by our committee.” Warner, standing next to Burr, agreed, adding, “We’re being extra cautious here.” Burr, however—perhaps conscious of the fact that he’s a Republican assessing a report that concluded that Russia helped elect a Republican president—hedged a bit on the ICA’s conclusion that Putin’s intent was to support Trump over Clinton. (During the brief news conference, though, no one asked, if that’s the case, why then did Russians steal and release only e-mails from Democrats that were damaging to Clinton?)