tv Senate Intel Leaders Promise to Follow Intelligence in Russia Probe CSPAN March 29, 2017 7:04pm-7:43pm EDT
gamble: america's rise to dominance in the middle east." about the 1956 suez crisis and its aftermath. >> what he's trying to prevent is the soviet union coming in, aligning with the nationalists, undermining the british and taking control of the oil of the middle east. we cared about the oil because it was 100% of european oil came from the middle east. so, we wanted to make sure that e had friendly arab regimes -- that would, if not align with the united states, at least keep the soviet union out. that's the goal. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> the chair and ranking member of the senate intelligence committee held their first news conference since opening an investigation into russia and the 2016 elections. chair richard burr and ranking member mark warner both said the scope of the investigation will go wherever the intelligence leads them.
>> good afternoon. thank you for coming out this afternoon. senator warner and i thought it was time for our first public update of the senate investigation into russian involvement in the elections. mr. burr: and let me just say that we can't say enough what the mission of the senate committee is. which is to look at all activities that russia might have taken to alter or influence the 2016 elections in the united states. in addition to that, the mission of the committee is to look at any campaign contacts from either committee with russian government or russian government officials that might have influenced in any way, shape or form the election process. we take that very seriously. it's not something that can be
done quickly. and when you look at our committee, it is in fact the oversight role that we function in every single day. this is just on a little larger scale. for those that might think or have suggested that this is outside of our expertise, let me remind you, the last public investigation that we did was the senate investigation into benghazi. we devoted three professional staff to that investigation. it took one year. and in comparison to the public hearings that happened in the house, our report and findings were out much quicker than what they were. and i think are consistent with in fact what the house process looked like at the end. so, let me share with you what we've accomplished to date. we have devoted seven professional staff positions to this investigation.
these are staffers who already had the clearance and already had the knowledge of the materials that they were going to look at that started on day one. now, what was day one? day one was the first public hearing that the committee held with director clapper, director comey, admiral rogers, and director brennan. when they came to the united states senate to testify on the completion of the i.c.a. the report of the last administration on russia's involvement in the elections. the full committee had an opportunity to ask every one of the four i.c. members initial questions. things that we knew to ask as of that time. let me assure you that as this investigation continues, we will certainly give those individuals at least once, if not more, opportunities to come back either in official capacity or in a retired
capacity, to come back and share with us answers to questions we might have. the staff has been provided an unprecedented amount of documents. those documents include documents that up to this point have only been shared with the green bay packer of -- gang of eight and staff directors on the house and senate side. it's safe to say that our staff currently is working through thousands of raw intelligence and analytic products to, one, determine whether the process that the reviewers went through to compile their report were in agreement with -- we're in agreement with. and to see if our confidence levels on their ratings of low, medium or high confidence in fact match. to date, as i said, they've been provided thousands of pages of documents and have
reviewed to date majority of those documents. we're within weeks of completing the review of those documents. i might say that we're in constant negotiations with the intelligence community about access to additional documents, to where we access those documents, to how our staff notes are kept, and whether in fact we have the capabilities within the intelligence community spaces to use computers. this is not abnormal. it's been involved in every investigation i've seen in the 17 years i've been in the house or senate committee. so i don't find this to be unusual, but it is challenging to say the least. it does not yet include the additional documents that the committee has requested and others that we will request, to enable us ultimately to come to
some finality, findings and conclusions of the mission of this investigation. this week we begin to schedule our first interviews. to date we have made 20 requests for individuals to be interviewed by the committee. as we stand here today, five are already scheduled on the books. and probably within the next 10 days, the remaining 15 will have a scheduled date for those individuals to be interviewed by our staff. we anticipate inviting additional individuals to come and be interviewed. and ultimately some of those interviewed individuals may turn into private and public hearings by the committee. but yet to be determined. there have been a number of individuals who have volunteered to be interviewed. let me assure you that they
will be processed as the committee determines we're ready to conduct those interviews. or if they're even pertinent to the issues that we need to look into. the only individual who publicly has been identified to date is jared kushner. and the committee will conduct an interview with mr. kushner when the committee decides that it's time for us to set a date because we know exactly the scope of what needs to be asked of mr. kushner. tom's hearing, which will be the first public hearing that we've held, is to examine ussian capabilities, their capabilities to influence elections globally, what russia has done in the past, which is important for us to bring to light for the american people. what they're doing today both here and throughout the world. and, more importantly, what we
should expect for fought toture. we've got -- for the future. we've got two panels, two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon. to look at specifically the olicies that we think russia is implementing and to look at the technologies that display their capabilities. i would conclude with this, then i'll turn it over to mark. we'll always say to you this investigation scope will go wherever the intelligence leads it. so, it is absolutely crucial that every day we spend trying to separate fact from fiction, and to find some intelligence thread that sends us to the factual side of all the names and all the places that you in this room have written about. just the fact that you say it doesn't mean the fact. it's incumbent on our staff and on our members to in fact connect that intelligence
thread to that, for us to make some determination as to the relevance of it in our investigation. so, mark and i work hand in hand on this. and contrary to maybe popular belief, we're partners to see that this is completed and that we've got a product at the end of the day that we can have bipartisanship in supporting. mr. warner: thank you, richard. i'm going to repeat many of the things that chairman said. but i think the important you hear it from both of us -- it's important you hear it from both of us. obviously there's a lot of drama out there about the stories that all of you are running down. and i think echoing what the chairman has said, it's important for us at least, and i think all of us here, to remember to not lose sight about what this investigation is about. an outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack
our most critical democratic process, the election of a president. and in that process, decided to favor one candidate over another. i can assure you, they didn't do it because it was in the best interest of the american people. russia's goal, vladimir putin's goal, is a weaker united states , weaker economically, weaker globally. and that should be a concern to all americans, rarledless of party aphysical yailings -- regardless of party affiliation. we're here to assure you, and more importantly the american people who are watching and listening, that we will get to the bottom of this. rich and i have known each other for a long time. the chairman and i both have a serious concern about what the russians have done and continue to do around the world. i'll come back to this in a moment when we talk about
tomorrow's hearings. some of the techniques that russia used in this election, as we find more and more, i think would send a chill down anyone who believes in a democratic process in this country or around the world. and echoing what the chairman has said, the committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads. we need to get this right. and sometimes that means, especially for somebody like me, who wants things done yesterday, that it's not going to happen as quickly as i would like, or many members of our committee would like. we're getting it -- but getting it right is more important than getting it done quickly. i want to echo again something the chairman said. what i've been remarkably proud of is that the committee on both sides of the aisle, every member, the level of seriousness that they put into this work, the attention that they've given, and the
commitment as well to follow the intel wherever it leads. over the last month, we've seen some progress. our staffs have been out reviewing these thousand of pages of documents. trying to look back at the source materials. we also, as the chairman has mentioned, are starting to talk to some of those analysts who helped put together this report. and in many ways we want to find out what was potentially left on the cutting room floor that might not have met the full levels of confidence, but still might be worthy of further looking. and as the chairman mentioned, a number of those interviews are scheduled. the intelligence community for the most part, in terms of access to people, have been very cooperative. on some of the documents, with some parts of the intelligence community, we still have a challenge. but we cannot do this job, we cannot tell the american people our conclusions unless we have
access to all the pertinent information. and one of the things i really appreciate is that the chairman and i are committed to getting that. i know that the pate rots that work -- patriot that work in the intelligence community -- patriots that work in the intelligence community want us as well to go wherever the facts lead. as has been mentioned, the only person we've announced is jared kushner. and we will schedule that when we have the facts, so we can ask the appropriate questions. there's a lot of names. the chairman has mentioned names. there will be appropriate time. but it's got to be done in a timely way. so that any individual, those and others, there will be others, we have the right questions to ask. tomorrow's hearing, as the chairman mentioned, will be the first in a series. i think it will be interesting because some of the techniques
which the russians used in this past election, really go to the heart of how our democratic process works. i was a technology guy before i was in politics. the very technology that has made our lives simpler can also be misused in ways to put false information for folks who potentially only get their news off of twitter feed or a facebook news feed. and that raises serious questions, even beyond this investigation. so with that i again want to thank the chairman for the cooperation we've had. and i think i speak on behalf of all the committee members. most important thing we want to let you know is, we're going to get this right and we're going to follow all the intelligence. happy to take your questions. mr. burr: we'll take some questions. let me set ground rules real quick. we'll answer anything about the senate intelligence committee's investigation. we will not take questions on the house intelligence committee. we would refer those to the ouse intelligence committee. reporter: the white house has continually said that any
discussion about coordination between the trump campaign and russian officials is a hoax. anybody who's seen any information about this knows that there's nothing there. so from what you have seen so far, can you definitively rule out that there was no coordination whatsoever between trump officials and russian officials during the election? mr. burr: we would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation. i think mark and i have committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions. and i would hope that that's what you would like us to do. as much as we'd like to share minute by minute, even the snapshots we get as a team going through it are not always accurate whether we find the next piece of intelligence. so, let us get a little deeper into this before you ask us to write the conclusions. that's clearly something we intend to do down the road. reporter: -- [inaudible] -- sent a letter to both you and senator warner urging the committee to look closer at the
financial ties between trump associates and russia. is there a sense that the committee is not already investigating the financial aspects of this closely enough? mr. burr: the committee's looking anywhere intelligence suggests that there might have relationship of or effort to influence u.s. elections. mr. warner: i just simply add that i for a long time before we even started the investigation have believed that this president, like all prior presidential candidates of both parties, should have in the best interests of the american people released their tax returns. reporter: is -- [inaudible] -- the 20 you've identify. if necessary, does your committee have the reach and resources to interview persons outside the united states if you deem that? mr. burr: we're not going to get into names that are on our list. i can assure you that the lengthy. mark and i have both agreed
that we're willing to issue subpoenas. it's tough you to make a subpoena go outside of the united states. so we understand the limitations. but i only say this. he and i are tapping into everything that we can to understand how we increase our reach in the ability to investigate and to get intelligence that would be pertinent to the investigation. reporter: you have personally coordinated with the white house at all on the scope of this investigation? and how do you prevent it from going off track? mr. burr: no, sir, i have not. it's the relationship and the trust we have. mr. warner: let me also add to that. there have been -- all the members of the committee, i've been constantly impressed. we know it's challenging. some folks want this to go away. some folks want this to be done and us reaching conclusions tomorrow. or yesterday.
but so many committee members on both sides of the aisle have constantly stepped up. i think it's not only our relationship, but it's the fact that the committee i think has got our back and they want to see it through. reporter: without naming another committee, could you speak to the level of satisfaction on both sides of the aisle within your committee about the integrity of the committee, how it's working, its functions and so on? mr. burr: the first assessment i would make is not only for the first time have our members had access to gang of eight information. seven of our professional staff slots have access to gang of eight information. that is unprecedented in the history of the committee. so i think it starts with the trust that the intelligence community has with the staff, the professional staff, and with the membership at large. it would be extremely easy for them to deny us, to have access to some of the country's most sensitive things that deal with
sources and methods. they have not. i think that's what gives us high hopes that we can reach a conclusion that has bipartisan support and that we feel confident explored every crevice that we can find. mr. warner: we are going to need to make sure we get all that information. part of this is the normal course. i think of the intelligence community having concerns. i think we've earned their trust. but it continues. reporter: two-part question. one is that, paul manafort has written to the committee and i understand -- [inaudible] -- talking to your staff to try to set up an interview. can you tell us whether that has happened already? secondly, just from a logistical standpoint, the hearing that people on your committee go and read some of he's documents, -- of these documents at the c.i.a., for instance, a bewildering amount of information. they don't even know where to begin, where it ends. is there something being done to try to help you get through this volume of -- large volume of information? mr. burr: i'm not sure who you're hearing it from. it's not the professional staff
that's doing it. is it a lot of information? absolutely. is it clear to know where to go? yes. it's in three binders. you open the front cover and you start reading until you get to the back one and you work on the second and the third. in benghazi, our professional staff had to go out and figure out what intelligence they needed to ask for. didn't have access to gang of eight. had to figure out who to interview. and so i'm not going to tell you this one's easier. this one's one of the biggest investigations that the hill has seen in my tenure here. mr. warner: just add, the challenges, the times, you go to a footnote, you have to go back and get a document that supports that footnote. we want to do -- mentioned one individual, any of those individuals that are out in the public -- assess whether it's appropriate to see them. you might think it will be appropriate. we've got to get our -- we have to know what the right questions are to ask. to do that you have to have the underlying documents.
mr. burr: not scheduled. reporter: in your remarks you mentioned there are still challenge getting information from the i.c. are there particular agencies in particular -- mr. warner: i knew you were going to ask that. i'm going to not say. but i want to make sure the intelligence community knows some have been very responsive. some less so. to do our job, we have to have this information. mr. burr: let me answer on behalf of the agencies. not every document that an agency holds is the product of that agency. so, it is impossible from a legal standpoint for one agency to provide us another agency's documents. so the faster we can work through who has ownership rights, the quicker we can ask the appropriate agency for a specific document. reporter: as part of your investigation, are you asking the house chairman to share his sources with you? and will you seek to review the white house's visitor log?
mr. burr: we're not asking the house to play any role in our investigation. we don't plan to play any role in their investigation. reporter: for senator warner, are you confident that the white house has not interfered in the integrity of this investigation? for both of you, is the ultimate aim to write a report at the end of this investigation? mr. warner: let me start with the second part of your question. absolutely in terms of bipartisan. if we don't come to some joint conclusion with the manipulation that took place in the election and with the spirit of kind of the american people saying, what's going on here, i think we would not fulfill our duty. on the first question, i've seen no evidence, i think one of the things that mr. kushner volunteering to testify was a good sign. but i've said repeatedly and i think the chairman agrees, you know, this is the right venue. but if we see any attempt to stifle us with information, or cut off the intelligence professionals giving us the
access we need, you'll hear from us. reporter: can i ask -- [inaudible] -- looking at the potential rewards russia -- [inaudible] -- questions of changes to the republican party platform, convention or the way the president -- [inaudible] -- criticized vladimir putin. is that part of what you're looking at? mr. burr: that's not in the scope of the investigation. i'll leave that up to you guys to report. reporter: has the white house or the d.o.j. or any part of the trump administration blocked sali yates from giving you guys information or -- [inaudible] warren i'd like to see ms. -- mr. warner: i'd like to see ms. yates at one point. i saw comments yesterday that the white house press secretary said he'd be happy to have her testify. that's something we have to schedule. reporter: do they block her from giving -- enabling her to
come up before your committee or to talk to you? burr no. -- mr. burr: no. reporter: i think a lot of americans want to know if the president himself had anything to do with it. we have a government with a trust issue right now. a lot of americans. is there anything you've seen, either of you or your staff, that would raise any direct links to the president himself about what happened last year? mr. burr: we won't take a snapshot in time and make any observations on it. but we know that our challenge is to answer that question for the american people. in our conclusions to this investigation. reporter: any circumstance in which you wouldn't share with mr. warner one of your sources of intelligence on this investigation? mr. burr: he usually knows my sources before i do. mr. warner: i've also got his cell phone. which means he hears from me more than he sometimes likes. reporter: the white house and
supporters of the president complain at times that the intelligence community has leaked intelligence or communications scooped up -- members of the transition team improperly. does the scope of your investigation include any of that? mr. burr: the normal course of business for the intelligence ommittee is about leaks. so that's an ongoing process that we look at. we will try to assess leaks if they take place during the investigation in the same way. and if we find them, we will refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency by requesting a crimes report. reporter: you have seen anything yet that would suggest the intelligence community did anything improper with information that it collected? that had to do with -- mr. burr: my answer would probably be no. we're so early in the investigation. i'm not sure that we've triaged every piece that's out there. mr. warner: i think we want -- one of the things we're both very concerned -- leaks can
sometimes be extraordinarily damaging to our capacity and to the men and women who serve our country in the i.c. i do think that editorial comment here, that if the administration has said they did nothing, then i would hope they would continue -- there's nothing to leak. the more cooperation we can get, the sooner we can move forward and get to the end when we move this cloud. reporter: the fact that the f.b.i. has an active counterintelligence investigation, has that caused you to change your investigation at all in terms of trying not to step on their toes or to do anything that could undermine a potential criminal investigation? mr. burr: i'll leave it up to the f.b.i. to make any comments on c.i. investigation if there is one. and the extent. but we're always conscious of the fact that we may go down a road and find that we're in
conflict with a law enforcement process. at which time we will work with the appropriate people to try to remedy that. mr. warner: there are historical precedence, obviously. watergate had an investigation while there were d.o.j. investigations going on. we're very sensitive to that. reporter: can you give us a sense of the scale of what the russian allegedly did in terms of the number of people and the didn't facets of the attack? mr. warner: let me start off on that. i think we know about the hacking. and the selective leaking of information. but as a former tech guy, what really concerns me is at least some reports, and we've got to get to the bottom of this, that there were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in russia in effect taking over a series of computers. they can then generate news,
down to specific areas. it's been reported to merks we have to find this out, whether they were able to affect specific areas in wisconsin, michigan, pennsylvania. where you would not have been receiving off of your -- whoever your vendor might have been. trump versus clinton. during the a winning days of the election. but instead, clinton is taking money from some source. fake news. we've also seen as well the fact that if you think about -- if you look just at, for example, if you googled election hacking, during the period leading up to the election and immediately afterwards, you wouldn't get fox or abc or "new york times" or -- what you'd get is four out of the first five news stories that popped up are russian propaganda. r.t. news. spot knick, others. i'm not here to relitigate the election. but the fact -- part of our
responsibility as well is to put the american public on a higher level of alert, that this time it was russia. it could be other foreign nations as well. we're in a whole new realm around cyber. that provides opportunities. huge, huge threats for basic democracy. we're seeing it right now. mr. burr: we're on the brink of potentially having two european countries where russia is the of their disrupter leadership. what we might assess as a very covert effort in 2016 in the united states is a very overt effort as well as covert in germany, france. already been tried in monthing in row, netherlands. we feel part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world about what's going on. it's now into character assassination of candidates. mr. warner: one of the things
that we, as the committee working with the administration, how we really think proactively about what kind of even potentially offensive strategy you have to take, we cannot allow this to happen again. this last time it maybe favored one party. russia's going to act in its self-interest. not in america's interest. we have to be careful in 2018 and obviously in 2020. reporter: npr. question for you, senator burr. i ask this with no disrespect, but because it's a question -- mr. burr: he disrespects me all the time. reporter: having served as an advisor on the trump campaign, can you say hand over heart that you can oversee an impartial and serious investigation -- mr. burr: absolutely. i'll do something i've never done. i'll admit i voted for him. we always hide who we vote for. that's part of the democratic process. but i've got a job in the united states senate. i take that job extremely serious. it override necessary personal beliefs that i have or loiments
i might have -- loyalties i might have. mark and i might look at politics differently. we don't look at the responsibilities we have on the committee differently. and that's to earn the trust and the respect of the intelligence community so they feel open and good about sharing information with us. because that enables us to do our oversight job thatch better. have confidence that we together with the members of our committee are going to get to the bottom of this. if you get nothing else from today take that statement to the bank. reporter: if you guys have been in conflict -- have you guys been in conflict with representative michael flynn? also, can you go through the thought process between why would you have an interview behind closed doors or do it publicly? likewise you would talk to jared kushner behind closed doors or would you do it publicly, why you would do that? mr. burr: well -- i think it's safe to say that we have had conversations with a lot of
people. and you would think less of us if general flynn wasn't in that list. from a standpoint of the interview process, if you feel like you're being cheated, because they're not being public, if there's relevance to them, they'll vebley be part of a public -- eventually be part of a public hearing. but any investigation of this kind will start with private interviews to determine the value of what a witness has to provide for the committee. we think -- one thing that we're really conscious of is we weren't give an free pass to do a witch hunt. we were asked to do a real investigation. we'll see high-profile people and we'll see analysts from the intelligence demuent -- community. or we may see a 28-year-old that happened to answer the phone at the white house on the wrong day when an ambassador called him and when they went around and said, who talked to the ambassador, they raised their hand. we don't want that person to have to get a lawyer to be
interviewed. we'd like to bring them up and understand what role they played, if any, without any liability that extends to them. so we're really conscious of trying to assess each individual person for what the need is. but we don't rule anything out for anybody relative to how public the information might be. reporter: [inaudible] mr. burr: i'm not going to tell you one way or the another -- or the other. reporter: [inaudible] scheduled five. [inaudible] mr. burr: i think they start as early as next monday. i would probably be the wrong one to verify that. they're media. they are media. mr. warner: these are people who helped put together the report. mr. burr: when you see a movie, it's roughly two hours. when you see how much film went into a movie, it's probably 50 hours. we don't want to just look at what was in the report. we want to look at what was cut
and thrown on the floor. either an analytic product or an intelligence. to figure out whether an analyst made the right determination with what we know today. what we know today is a lot more than what they knew in december when they went through this process. time for a couple more. reporter: you said you were looking at communications infractions with people involved with the russian government. you are also looking at people involved in organized crime in russia and their contacts. mr. burr: i don't think we said anything about organized crime. we said anybody that had connections to the russian government and contact with the campaign. mr. warner: unfortunately many people in russia who are part of organized crime networks seem to have ties to the russian -- mr. burr: i'll let that one be attributed to him. reporter: -- [inaudible] -- concern for an attack during the 2018 election. does this investigation need to be completed before then so you can better prevent -- mr. warner: we sure hope so.
mr. burr:'s tomorrow's hearing is with that -- tomorrow's hearing is with that in mind that. we provide more public this ess, not just in country, but throughout the world, as to what russia's up to. i think it's safe to say that u.s. officials have pushed what we know, not we the committee, what we the government know, about russia's capabilities and intent. we pushed it out to those countries that are most imminent to have elections. but i'll remind you that we're within 30 days of the first french election. four candidates. it will go down to two candidates with the runoff in may. i think it's safe by everybody's judgment that the russians are actively involved in the french elections. last one. reporter: you mentioned earlier that -- [inaudible] -- thousands of pages of documents to go through. are they having to do this by hand? [inaudible] -- shared drive or documents online? mr. burr: i'm not going to be specific as to how we're doing
it. there is no shared drive this time around. that didn't have a happy ending. this gets back to what we said about every iteration is a new negotiation. and we're not complaining about that. we think it's really, really important that we have a clear understanding up front who has access, how do they treat the information that they've got, where do they store the information, who's responsible for the security of that information? because you've got to understand, we're going to go through an investigation that will last x amount of time. after that, we've got to perform our oversight job, which means we're going to be working with the same people, asking them for documents to do our normal oversight job, and if in fact we don't live up to the security that we promise them, then you're going to have an oversight committee that can't successfully do its job. mr. warner: one of the things we're doing, this is where part
of the rub comes and i understand it, we're basically trying to get access that even goes beyond what the gang of eight has had. and in a sense how we have all of that in terms of raw products and how we make sure that every committee member said they've got to see or know some of this information before they can sign their name on a finished product. there's some healthy tension there. burr for any that have been at the confirmation hear -- mr. burr: for any that have been at the confirmation hearings. something you've heard from every person who was nominated and eventually confirmed is, would you provide for the committee if asked raw intelligence data? there is rarely a time where a committee would ask for that. we are in a very rare time. and we will test some people to see if in fact their commitment is 100% correct. let me end with how we ended the first part. and that's that the committee will go wherever the intelligence leads us.
you can continue to ask us 30 different ways about a person. trust me when we have them scheduled, we will tell you. you won't have to beat it out of us. we hope to make updates a periodic thing but we're not going to do them unless we have something to share with you that's educational, that shows you a little bit of the road map we're going down. right now we're not at a point where we can tell you that's every two weeks or three weeks or a month. we want to do it based upon the changing conditions of the investigation. mr. warner: my last comment is simply a comment i've made before. when we started this, we saw the scope of what was involved. i said it was the most important thing i'd ever taken on in my public life. i believe that more firmly now than even when we started. we're going to get it right. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]