The Senate Intelligence Committee has interviewed “well over a hundred” people as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election, with more interviews still to come.
Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, praised what he described Wednesday as “unprecedented access to individuals and to intelligence,” but refused to predict when the investigation might end.
“I know exactly how many [people] I’ve got on the deck to interview, I know how many interviews can be done in a week, in a month, so I could project today when I finish those,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many people might get on the deck between now and that time that we didn’t know about.”
Burr admitted to The New York Times late last month that President Donald Trump had asked him to wrap up his investigation “as quickly as possible.”
But speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, he said he stood by what he told Trump about the investigation having to run its course.
“That’s the answer I’d give you,” Burr said. “When we have interviewed everybody that needs to be interviewed, and we feel like we have answered every question that the committee jurisdictionally should, we will finish.”
Lessons for next elections
While Burr refused to say when the Intelligence Committee’s already 11-month-old investigation might be done, he did say the goal was to at least be able to share lessons learned in time to help bolster security for the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.
“If we’re not to a point that we can write a final report with sufficient time for states to be able to handle their primaries this year, then we will probably make a joint decision to release our recommendations on election security by itself so that states can at least have the blueprint that we suggest,” Burr said.
Burr said most of the recommendations involve “common sense” precautions and would not require new laws or help from the federal government.
The Intelligence Committee chair also said he was not bothered by Trump’s apparent reluctance to talk about Russia’s activities in the same way he has addressed Iran and North Korea.
“I think in many cases that’s his art of negotiating,” Burr said. He said he thought the president’s intent in any such discussions was to keep the other side from knowing “where he’s coming from.”
“It is uncomfortable sometimes for members of Congress,” Burr said. “It is uncomfortable sometimes for the American people. It is his style. I don’t think it’s going to change.”