Senate Intelligence Committee releases final report on 2016 Russian interference

0
243
US Capitol and Russian flag
MGN

Washington, D.C. (cbsnews.com) — The Senate Intelligence Committee released the long-awaited final volume of its investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, marking the conclusion of what was held up as the last and arguably only bipartisan congressional investigation into the matter.

The fifth chapter, parts of which were redacted, spans nearly 1,000 pages and deals with counterintelligence concerns stemming from potential links and interactions between Moscow and the 2016 campaigns. The committee details extensive contact between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who worked closely with Manafort for years. The report labeled Kilimnik a “Russian intelligence officer.”

- Advertisement -

“The Committee found that Manafort’s presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for the Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign,” the report said. “The Committee assesses that Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services, and that those services likely sought to exploit Manafort’s access to gain insight into the Campaign. Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik, represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

In a statement, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the committee’s acting chairman, said investigators “found absolutely no evidence” that the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Russians, but said the committee did find “irrefutable evidence of Russian meddling.”

Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, noted in a statement that the report details “a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections.”

The Senate committee’s report covers much of the same territory as that of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but is nearly five times as long as the comparable portion of the Mueller report. In a rare, wide-ranging interview in 2019, the committee’s then-Chairman Richard Burr told CBS News he believed the committee had interviewed several witnesses outside of the scope of Mueller’s inquiry.

“I think it’s safe to say we’ve interviewed people that I don’t even know if the special counsel knows about them,” Burr said at the time. The Republican from North Carolina stepped aside from the chairmanship in May amid an investigation into his stock trades. Rubio, a Republican from Florida, now serves as the panel’s acting chairman.

On Tuesday, Burr said the threat of Russian interference in U.S. elections is “ongoing.”

“One of the Committee’s most important — and overlooked — findings is that much of Russia’s activities weren’t related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself,” he said in a statement. “Their aim is to sow chaos, discord, and distrust. Their efforts are not limited to elections.”

The Senate committee’s investigation, first launched in January 2017, was almost completely staff-led and involved interviews with hundreds of witnesses, including some overseas, and the review of more than a million pages of documents. Their work stood in contrast to other congressional probes, including one led by the House Intelligence Committee, that wound up marred by leaks, partisan infighting and politically divided conclusions. Burr and Warner declared their intention to present a consistently united front from the outset, and to only take investigative steps on which they both agreed.

The committee has acknowledged recommending the special counsel open criminal probes after some witnesses appeared to give false or misleading testimony to investigators. In 2018, Burr said publicly that the committee had submitted criminal referrals to the Justice Department based on witness testimony. It remains unclear whether the department has acted on those recommendations.