Friday, 20 October, 2017

Senate Intelligence Committee Not Ready to Close Russia Probe

Exclusive: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin CNN: Facebook ads targeted Wisconsin, Michigan
Wilma Wheeler | 05 October, 2017, 00:33

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that Russia's activities on social media were "indiscriminate" and did not favor either side of the political spectrum.

"I can compel you to come", Burr warned, hinting strongly that the committee was nearing the point of issuing a subpoena for Steele.

"We have interviewed everybody who had a hand or a voice into the creation of the intelligence community assessment", Burr said.

Burr and Warner said they have largely confirmed the conclusions the intelligence community reached under the Obama administration that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 United States election.

Burr said interviews have included "everybody who had a hand or a voice into the creation of the intelligence community assessment" released in January that found Russian Federation did conduct a campaign influence operation with the aspiration of helping Donald Trump. Third, "you ought to be able to go down and take a look at an ad run for or against you like you'd be able to get a look at that content on TV", Burr said.

In addition to interviewing members of the Trump and Clinton presidential campaigns, they have also interviewed "every official of the Obama administration to fully understand what they saw... and more importantly what they did and did not do and what drove those actions", Burr said.

He noted the committee had "hit a wall" in its effort to interview Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier containing explosive allegations about Trump and top members of his campaign, and he called on Steele to meet with the panel. Facebook said Wednesday that it had accepted invitations from both committees.

Burr also said the panel had interviewed seven attendees of an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel - where then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak spoke briefly with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner - and their testimony was consistent. 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. Burr said the committee "cannot decide the credibility" of the dossier without understanding who paid for it and its sources.

He was joined by committee chairman, Sen.

While Trump's defenders have dismissed the Steele dossier as a politically-motivated smear, Burr indicated that his committee is still working to evaluate its claims and has not dismissed it outright.

There are several public hearings on the horizon.

He said at least 25 more interviews are scheduled and more work is needed to determine whether the Trump campaign worked with Russian Federation to disrupt the election.

The comments came as the pair updated reporters on the probe into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. "In many cases, [the Russians] didn't even take advantage of the most technical targeting tools that exist within those social media companies, so I would defer answering your question until we've completed the investigation". CNN reported Wednesday that some of the ads specifically targeted MI and Wisconsin, two states that were critical to President Donald Trump's victory.

The committee has lately been focusing on the role social media companies like Facebook and Twitter played in the dissemination of false or misleading ads and stories planted or otherwise backed by Russian operatives.

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