Three months in, this Senate Intelligence Committee investigation sounds like it’s falling apart

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 30: Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R) (R-NC) confers with ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (L) (D-VA) during a hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee March 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of "Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns." (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

No interviews. Not a single subpoena. No scheduled public hearings. No interviews. No records from the Trump campaign and a chairman who won’t sign any letters requesting them. Not a single full-time staffer dedicated to the probe.

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For something that Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) says “may well be the most important thing [he does] in [his] public life,” the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian actors isn’t proceeding that way.

Sen. Warner is the senior ranking minority member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He’s worked to maintain an appearance of bipartisanship, eschewing the confrontational approach of Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), who occupies the same position on the House Intelligence Committee.

Where Schiff has been a vocal member of his committee, calling for chairman Rep. Devin Nunes’ recusal (which later happened), Sen. Warner has evidently deferred to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican.

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Under Burr, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation has stagnated. Burr has faced tough questions about his impartiality before; he served as a National Security Advisor to the Trump campaign and has bragged about using his role to get the FBI to look into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Democrats say that involvement makes him unlikely to conduct an impartial investigation. Even Sen. Warner himself has said he had “grave concerns” about the independence of any investigation headed by Sen. Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

That was in February. Months later, Burr’s inaction on matters critical to any investigation the basics gives some weight to those concerns.

Just after the investigation began, the committee sent letters to Trump campaign officials instructing them to preserve Trump campaign documents. But they haven’t followed up to request the documents; Burr refuses to sign letters or subpoenas to acquire them, even though the letters have been drafted and sit ready for his signature. Without those documents, members of the committee don’t have vital information to use in building an investigation.

Not having those documents also means not knowing who to interview and what questions to ask.

Yahoo News reports that former campaign manager Paul Manafort, campaign adviser Roger Stone, former foreign policy adviser Carter Page and a lawyer for former a national security adviser have all agreed to be questioned, with Flynn’s lawyer offering questioning in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

None of them have been interviewed by the committee; sources say they haven’t even sent requests to interview them.

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If nothing else, Yahoo News reports that five staffers assigned to the case on a part-time basis have been reviewing everything turned over to the committee in January. This documentation was the foundation for the CIA and intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had intervened to aide President Trump’s campaign, mar Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and create confusion in the electorate.

These documents have led to the identification of more potentially useful documents and a lost of witnesses that could also aide the investigation.

But it’s not clear whether Chairman Richard Burr will sign off on subpoenas and other efforts to use them.

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