The House Intelligence Committee agreed Wednesday that its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election will include an examination of any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In an unclassified summary released late Wednesday, the committee said its bipartisan investigation will focus on four areas: “Russian cyber activity and other active measures” targeting the United States and its allies; any “links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns;” the U.S. response to the Russian campaign; and leaks of classified information related to the American intelligence community’s investigation of the campaign.
The determination of the scope of the panel’s investigation comes as congressional inquiries into the Kremlin campaign to tilt the election in favor of President Donald Trump have become mired in partisan rancor.
This week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters that he had seen no evidence that Trump aides had been in contact with Russian intelligence agents. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, sharply disputed that claim and said it was far too early to make such an assessment as the panel has not yet begun receiving evidence from intelligence agencies about the campaign.
“We will fully investigate all the evidence we collect and follow that evidence wherever it leads,” Nunes pledged Wednesday. Nunes has close ties to the Trump White House and served on Trump’s transition team.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Democrats are questioning whether Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, possesses the necessary independence to lead his committee’s separate investigation into the Russian campaign. Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Trump White House enlisted Burr to knock down reports about contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials.
Wednesday’s announcement represents a key step in the investigation’s early stage. But in carrying out that inquiry, the committee will be reliant on evidence provided by the intelligence community. Whether the committee will gain access to all the information it needs remain an open question.
In its Wednesday statement, the committee reiterated “the need to expand access” to “documents and to ensure they are delivered to and stored at the committee.”
In his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump’s nominee to be director of national intelligence, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, pledged that he will supply required documents to Senate investigators.
As congressional investigators begin the work of sifting through intelligence and examining the determination made by the intelligence community that the Kremlin interfered on Trump’s behalf, the FBI is carrying out its own investigation. That inquiry reportedly includes a counterintelligence investigation into ties between Trump lieutenants and the Kremlin.
In its Wednesday statement, the House Intelligence Committee noted that its inquiry will not impede any ongoing investigation, a carve out that could slow down or restrict its scope.
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