Report: Senate Intel’s Understaffed Russia Probe Is Moving At Snail’s Pace

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speak during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, on the Committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh/AP

After deep partisan divides threatened the integrity of the House investigation into Russia’s election meddling, all eyes turned to the Senate. Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) in March committed to providing the public with a thorough, bipartisan probe into the extent of Russia’s interference and whether President Donald Trump’s staffers colluded with Kremlin actors.

But little progress has yet been made, three sources close to the committee told the Daily Beast. Three months after agreeing on the breadth of its investigation, the sources said, the panel has assigned no full-time staffers to dig through evidence and conducted no interviews with key Trump allies with ties to Russia.

Their efforts to date have been devoted to reviewing “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” a report put out by the intelligence community and released in declassified form in January, according to the Daily Beast.

Burr and Warner noted in a March press conference that the seven staffers assigned to the probe had access to far more classified information than they did for previous investigations, like the one into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Yet the Daily Beast reported that none of the staffers, a mix of Democratic and Republican senior aides with top security clearances, are working on the probe full-time, have any prosecutorial or investigative experience, or even much expertise on Russia.

A spokesman for Burr did not respond to the Daily Beast’s request for comment.

This unpromising news from the Senate side comes as the House probe seems to be righting itself. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) stepped aside from the probe in early April over allegations that he revealed classified information when he publicly claimed that he had viewed intelligence reports that showed the inappropriate collection of information about Trump staffers.

He was replaced by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-CA), who is working closely with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat, to resume the investigation. On Friday, Schiff announced that they have invited key Obama administration officials and senior intelligence officials, including former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, to testify before their committee.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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