The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate possible contacts between Russia and the people associated with U.S. political campaigns as part of a broader investigation into Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In a statement late on January 13, Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the panel's top Democrat, said the allegations of Russian interference "raise profound concerns" and their bipartian investigation "will follow the intelligence where it leads" in reaching conclusions about the extraodinary episode in U.S. political history.
Burr and Warner said that as part of the investigation they will interview senior officials from the Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration. They said subpoenas would be issued "if necessary to compel testimony."
"We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right," the senators said.
The bulk of the committee's work will be done in secret, although the senators said they will hold open hearings when possible.
"As the committee's investigation progresses, we will keep Senate leadership, and the broader body, apprised of our findings," Burr and Warner said.
A declassified intelligence report released last week said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence the election to favor President-elect Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, revelations that have roiled Washington and Moscow, which denies the allegations.
Trump and his supporters have staunchly resisted the findings and Trump has leveled a series of broadsides at U.S. intelligence agencies, even though he'll have to rely on their expertise to help him make major national security decisions once he is sworn in on January 20.
Democrats and some Republicans have pressed for a special, select bipartisan committee to conduct the investigation, but Republican leaders have maintained that the existing committees are capable of handling the inquiries.
According to the intelligence committee's statement, the inquiry will include:
- A review of the intelligence that informed the declassified report about Russia's interference in the election.
- "Counterintelligence concerns" related to Russia and the election, "including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns."
- Russian cyber activity and other "active measures" against the United States during the election and more broadly.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters