Senators Arrive at CIA Headquarters as Probe of Russia BeginsBy
Four senators make initial trip to see intelligence data
‘There’s a lot more to see and a lot more to do,’ Warner says
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and three other senators visited the CIA’s headquarters Wednesday to start digging through a trove of classified intelligence reports detailing Russian attempts to influence last year’s presidential election.
It’s going to be a long process.
"We’ve seen lots of the documents around the underlying basis of the evidence of the Russian hack, the Russian interference, the Russian favoring of Trump over Clinton," Warner said in a hallway interview at the Capitol. He said he already had no doubt of Russia’s actions because of previous classified briefings, but said it was different to see the underlying documents in person. "There is a lot more to see and a lot more to do."
Warner’s visit is just an early step in what is expected to be a months-long process that will include getting committee staffers approved for specialized security clearances, sifting through data that’s already been collected and subpoenaing witnesses from inside and outside the Trump administration. Already, many Democrats want an investigation by a special counsel in addition to congressional probes.
Trump’s pick to be deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, faced repeated calls from Democrats during his confirmation hearing Tuesday to commit to choosing a special counsel should he approved for the post. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney in Baltimore, would be responsible for making that decision after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from Russia-related probes following revelations he met with Russia’s ambassador during the campaign. Rosenstein was noncommittal, saying he would have to review the evidence.
For Warner, the 62-year-old former governor of Virginia, the issue of whether Russia deliberately sought to interfere in the election is resolved: the intelligence community concluded as much in a January report, a determination that Moscow disputes. The question for investigators now will be whether anyone on Trump’s team colluded with them in doing so.
"At this moment, I don’t think there’s any member of the Senate who’s actually heard a classified brief who doesn’t accept the fact the Russians not only interfered in a massive way, manipulated information, put out false notes, and it was clearly favoring one candidate over another,” Warner said.
He said there are still lots of unanswered questions and that the inquiry will involve all of the major intelligence agencies.
"Some of this is going to go beyond where the report was," Warner said.
At the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Warner said the senators looked through massive binders full of intelligence products but did not complete the review. "In a sense this is just the first round of documents."
"The public is owed the full truth and we need to be holding public hearings as we get further into the investigation," he said.
Warner said a Republican joined him and two other Democrats on the field trip, though he declined to identify them.