5 takeaways from Senate Russian meddling presser

5 takeaways from Senate Russian meddling presser
© Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expanding the scope of its investigation into Russian meddling, with panel leaders saying there is no end date in sight.

The panel is interested in questioning a lawyer who runs in the president's inner circle, looking into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, and determining whether the intelligence community's findings are fully correct and complete.

Here are the five main takeaways from the Wednesday presser:

1. Issue of collusion is still open

The panel leaders said they are still pursuing any leads and examining every shred of material to see if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race in an attempt to sway the outcome of the election.

“The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion,” Burr told a room of reporters.

“I’m not even going to discuss initial findings because we haven’t any.”

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The announcement comes after the panel met with a string of close associates of the president, including his son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner. Kushner attended a highly scrutinized 2016 meeting with a Russian government lawyer promising dirt on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE

2. A muddled message on the intelligence community assessment

The chairman of the committee delivered a muddled message about his confidence in the intelligence community assessment issued during the Obama administration affirming Russian interference in the election. 
 
Burr first expressed that the "general consensus" on the committee was trust in report. 
 
"We feel very confident that the ICA's accuracy is going to be supported by our committee," Burr said. 
 
But he was later careful to clarify that the committee has not yet reached a conclusion about the document's claim that Russia intervened to sway the election in favor of Trump. Russian efforts to "create chaos" were "indiscriminate" to either party, he said, leaving the door open in case any new findings disprove parts of the report.
 
President Trump has repeatedly pushed back on the intelligence community's findings, insisting that the agent behind the hacked Democratic National Committee emails could've been anyone: Russia, other foreign entities or someone working out of their basement.
 
3. Future elections may be in danger
 
Burr and Warner warned that Russia would almost certainly target future U.S. elections, pointing to protecting the democratic process for upcoming 2018 primaries as a top priority. 
 
"The Russian Intelligence Service is determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November's election and as we move into preparation for the 2018 election," Burr warned.
 
 
"We need to be on guard."
 
4. Michael Cohen is still of interest to the committee  
 
Burr revealed Wednesday that Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, will come before the committee in November for a public hearing.
 
The announcement comes after the panel called off a previously scheduled session last month after Cohen ignored their request and spoke to the press about his testimony. 

Cohen has become a key figure in the several congressional  investigations into election interference because of his involvement in a proposed Trump Tower deal in Moscow, as well as the repeated mention of his name in an opposition research dossier filled with unverified allegations about Trump and Russia.

He has strongly denied any involvement working with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

 
5. This investigation is far from over
 
The panel's leadership signified that new evidence they have tracked since the investigation began nine months ago has led the probe to expand in scope.
 
Since the investigation began, the committee has interviewed over 100 witnesses — some of whom were overseas — and collected thousands of pages of documents. Twenty-five witnesses are booked to appear before the committee in the coming month alone.
 
Although Burr had previously stated to The New York Times that the investigation would be completed by the end of the year, he said Wednesday that he could not put a timeline on the end of the probe.
 
“I didn’t dream then what it would expand to — I can’t predict what witnesses will share with us that might lead us in a different direction.”