Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia to fix the 2016 presidential election, told the Associated Press in an interview published Saturday that after nineteen months of investigation, “there is “no factual evidence today that we’ve received” on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign.”Sen. Richard Burr, official photo.
That should have been the headline and lede of the AP report about the interview, instead that was buried in the fourth paragraph. The AP headline is the anodyne, “AP Interview: Top Republican says Russia probe difficult“.
For much of the last two years, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has been the Russia investigator who is seen but rarely heard on Capitol Hill.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the North Carolina Republican opened up about the investigation that has now consumed 19 months of his life. He says it has been “frustrating as hell” and much more difficult than he originally envisioned. But he says the integrity of the investigation — and its importance to the institution of the Senate — is something he has labored to protect.
The buried lede:
“Burr said there is “no factual evidence today that we’ve received” on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. But he said he’s still open on the issue and hasn’t personally come to any final conclusions, since the investigation isn’t finished.”
Burr is careful to tell the AP that because the investigation is ongoing, he has not drawn a final conclusion and is open to the idea of Trump-Russia collusion. However, Burr and a fellow Republican on the Intel committee, James Lankford (OK), warn that when the committee issues its report it will likely provoke ‘vehement disagreement’ about its conclusions. Burr notes what may be an insurmountable standard for Trump’s accusers, that the committee must be able to prove any claims of collusion.
Burr won’t give a timeline for the end of the investigation or a final report, which could create fissures in the panel’s so-far bipartisan unity. Many Democrats are likely to disagree that there is no evidence of collusion, if that is the committee’s final conclusion.
“I am sure there will be people at the end of this who feel that we came to a conclusion that they vehemently disagree with,” Burr said. “I know that from a committee’s integrity standpoint we’ve got to prove what we find. And if you can’t prove it then we can’t make the claim.”
…Lankford says it’s possible the final report will split the committee.
“The hardest part is when staff starts going through all of the details and writes the last report,” Lankford says. “And then we start having people say, I won’t say that. That’s the threat.”
The AP article, which can be read at this link, states the committee is working on two reports set to be issued by the end of September,”one on the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s election interference, and a second on Russia’s election meddling on social media.”
The committee is in the midst of negotiations with attorneys for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele, seeking testimony from both men.
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