Russian Federation investigation: The 'collusion issue is still open', says Senate intelligence chairman

Exclusive: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman said on Wednesday the issue of whether President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign colluded with Russian Federation remains an open question as the panel intensifies its probe into the matter.

Burr and the committee's vice chairman, Sen. "I think they've got some more work to do and I'm pleased to say I think they're out doing that work now".

"Future witnesses that we might ask to come in the future, I strongly suggest you come in and speak with us", Burr said.

He told reporters on Capitol Hill that he still hoped to issue some kind of public report about what intelligence professionals call the Russian "active measures" aimed at the US and the West, but Burr declined to set a date. "If we use exclusively the social media advertising that we've seen, there is no way that you can look at that and say that that was to help the right side of the ideological chart and not the left, or vice versa", North Carolina Sen.

"We don't release documents provided to our committee, period", said Burr.

The committee is focused on three areas of the Russian ad scandal. He said Russian hackers had also tested the vulnerabilities of election systems in 21 states, though there's no evidence that any voting tallies were altered.

Russians or their operatives were buying public ads aimed at amplifying political division in the USA, or using fake accounts, disguised as Americans, to openly throw fuel on hot controversies. The tech giants came under intense pressure to disclose everything they knew about how foreign actors had exploited their platforms after Facebook said last month that 470 "inauthentic accounts" linked to Russian Federation had purchased political ads between 2015 and 2016.

Burr and Warner want to know more about what the online companies know about these operations and have convened an open hearing with them on November 1. The committee has asked executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to appear before it on 1 November, and Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would attend.


The investigation also found that Russian agents manipulated social media through paid ads and false accounts used to drive interest in active measures meant to sow chaos and division.

Burr said the committee has yet to find "any hint of collusion" but it is still conducting interviews and reviewing documents, including 25 additional interviews this month.

The panel has also extensively interviewed every Obama administration official of interest in the investigation, Burr said. Warner, intelligence committee ranking member said.

He added that any further questions about Comey's firing should be directed to Robert Mueller, who is heading a special investigation into Russian interference in the elections and any possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Burr said the committee had "hit a wall" regarding the verification of the collection of memos about Trump and Russian Federation written by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. Later this month, longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is slated to testify in open session before the Senate committee.

CNN reported in early January that Trump was briefed on the dossier, which includes allegations about Trump's associates, finances and personal life, and Trump has gone on to dismiss its contents entirely as "phony".

The committee interviewed seven people present at the event, and their testimony was consistent, Burr said.

"You can not walk away from this and believe that Russian Federation is not now active in trying to create chaos in our election process", Burr said.

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