Thursday, March 30, 2017

Senate Intelligence Committee Probe Puts Trump Squarely in the Crosshairs

While the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has turned into a circus with Republican chairman Devin Nunes more concerned with protecting Donald Trump and his fellow traitors than finding out the truth and protecting American.  Based on a press conference today, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation is something far different with bipartisan cooperation and Mr. Trump himself firmly in the crosshairs. The contrast between the committees could not be stark with the Senate Committee definitely in the hands of adults versus Nunes' childish cover up attempt.  Talking Points Memo looks at the press conference.  Here are highlights:
One thing was made crystal clear in a Wednesday press briefing on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election: this investigation is a very big and very serious deal.
In an hour-long appearance, committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) framed their probe as one of most ambitious investigative efforts ever taken on by a congressional committee. Burr, a 22-year veteran of Capitol Hill, framed the investigation as “one of the biggest” he’s seen in his tenure in Washington, D.C.
Warner concurred, saying, “When we started this, we saw the scope, what was involved, I said it was the most important thing I have ever taken on in my public life. I believe that more firmly now.”
Their solemn assurances to investigate the full scope of Russia’s involvement, to look into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian officials, and to produce a truly bipartisan report on their findings offered a stark contrast from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The House’s probe came to a standstill this week over Nunes’ overly close relationship with the President
Here are the key takeaways about the Senate committee’s investigation from Wednesday’s press conference:

Whether Trump was involved is the probe’s core questionAsked if there was evidence of “direct links” suggesting the President played any role in Russia’s interference, Burr said that was the ultimate question the committee would seek to answer.
He and Warner also said it was too early to definitively reject coordination between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials, saying they would “let this process go through before we form any opinions.”
The White House hasn’t interfered in or coordinated with the probeWarner said he has seen “no evidence” to suggest that the White House is “interfering in the integrity of this investigation,” pointing to Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s offer to be interviewed by the committee as a “good sign.”
"If we see any attempt to stifle us with information or cut off the intelligence professionals giving us the access we need, you’ll hear from us,” he added.
Russia’s election meddling goes beyond the U.S.
The senators stated Wednesday that Russia is actively working to undermine or interfere with election campaigns underway in several countries outside the United States, including Germany, Montenegro, the Netherlands and France.
“We feel part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world about what’s going on because it’s now into character assassination of candidates,” Warner said.
“I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” he said.
This will be different from the House investigationBurr and Warner went out of their way to put distance between their probe and that of the House Intelligence Committee.
“This investigation’s scope will go wherever the intelligence leads it,” Burr said in his opening remarks. “And contrary to maybe popular belief, we’re partners to see that this is completed and that we’ve got a product at the end of the day that we can have bipartisanship in supporting.”
The senators emphasized information sharing between all members of the committee and reiterated their agreement to issue subpoenas to desired witnesses if need be.
The probe is looking at the role of “fake news”Warner said one of the most alarming findings so far in his estimation is the use of paid Internet trolls who promote false news stories and target them to specific geographic areas.
Saying that those trolls could have targeted states where the margin of victory was razor-thin, like Wisconsin and Michigan, with negative stories about Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the election, Warner vowed the committee has “got to find this out.”
Committee has more access to classified information than it had in previous probesThe senators said the classified information they have been able to access far exceeded what was available to them during their investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Seven committee staffers assigned to sift through thousands of intelligence documents have access to information typically only available to the most senior members of Congress, known as the Gang of Eight, the senators said.
The committee will move slowly and deliberatelyBurr said the committee would not release names of people who would be interviewed, nor ask them to come before the committee until the “appropriate time.”
Warner noted that the committee would not schedule its interview with Kushner, the only person named as an interview subject so far, until “we know exactly the scope of what needs to be asked” of him.
Both lawmakers emphasized the wide-ranging scope of the investigation, which will also look at Russian capabilities and previous influence campaigns.
Somehow, I don't think the press conference will help Der Trumpenf├╝hrer,sleep well at night.  Trump may have his stooge in the form of Nunes on the House Committee, by the Senate investigation looks like it will be far different and one can only hope that it confirms Trump - and Pence's - collusion and that it takes them down.  Nothing is sweeter than to picture Trump in prison in prison garb, hopefully with plenty of black inmates who are well aware of the racism Trump peddled.

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