While the Senate Intelligence Committee still “has more work to do” in its probe of collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign, according to Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., the panel's vice chairman, Mark Warner, D-Va., called for social media companies like Facebook to be more transparent.
"The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion," Burr told reporters on Capitol Hill, noting that his “aspirational goal” was to bring the investigation to a close by year's end.
Lawmakers are in agreement, though, that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "We have not come to any determination on collusion or Russia's preferences," said Burr. "It seems that the overall theme of the Russian involvement in the U.S. elections was to create chaos at every level. And I would tell you the fact that we're sitting here nine months later investigating it, they have been pretty darn successful."
Thus far, the committee has conducted more than 100 interviews, Burr said, speaking with members of the intelligence community, seven people who attended an event in April 2016 at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, those who altered the Republican stance on Ukraine, former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former FBI director James Comey.
Former MI6 Agent Christopher Steele, who put together at times lurid details on Donald Trump in the now infamous dossier, has eluded the committee's probe, rebuffing entreaties by both Warner and Burr and hampering the lawmakers' ability to “decide the credibility" of the file.
The committee chairman called the probe of Comey's memos on a series of uncomfortable meetings with Trump as having reached “a logical end as it relates to the Russia investigation.”
Other persons of interest to the committee, including Tump attorney Michael Cohen, whose closed door meeting was canceled after he released a statement in preface of his appearance, is expected before the panel.
Burr warned future witnesses that if they don't bring information of value to the committee “I will assure you today you will be compelled to do it.”
Warner told reporters that he wanted to see social media companies make key changes that would help mitigate the threat of ads placed by foreign entities, including cluing Americans in on the source of ads and whether “likes” that make a story trend come from real users or bots.
“If you see an ad on a social media site, Americans should know whether the source of that ad was a foreign entity and if you see something trending, you should know whether that trending is generated by real individuals or bots or falsely identified accounts,” he said, noting that his initial concerns that some social media companies did not take the threat "seriously enough" have been allayed. “I believe they are taking it seriously now.”