Senate And House Intel Committees Go Separate Routes On Russia Investigation

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, and committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. confer on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, during the committee's confirmation hearing for CIA Director-designate Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kan. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Senate will. The House won’t.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said late Friday that his committee will investigate possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, reversing himself one day after telling reporters that the issue would be outside of his panel’s ongoing probe into Moscow’s election-disruption efforts.

Burr and the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said in a joint statement that the committee’s probe would touch on “intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns” as well as Russian cyberattacks and other election meddling outlined in an intelligence report released last week.

The Senate move also creates a split with the House, where intelligence panel chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told POLITICO earlier on Friday that Congress should not be investigating any possible contacts between Russia and the Trump camp.

“House committees don’t go operational like that, that I know of,” said Nunes, who is a member of Trump’s transition team. “It’s a law enforcement issue.”


Nunes is right. If Russia was involved this should be a criminal investigation. But the allure of television cameras and appearances on Sunday shows is just too much for two ambitious and yet relatively obscure senators to pass by.

It is hard to see how this ends in anything but bickering and recriminations. The odds of getting anyone in the intelligence community to definitively say anything approaches zero. The same goes for getting the Democrats to agree to a report that clears Trump. What is going to result is an ongoing cascade of leaks and dueling press releases. The majority will find nothing. The minority will issue their own report proving that Trump is the illegitimate offspring of Satan and Hitler.

In the end the public will be none the more informed but they will be convinced that the Senate is led by buffoons and the intelligence community are charlatans. So we’ll be back to square one.


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