Senate Intel chair: Panel’s Russia probe will extend into 2019

Senate Intel chair: Panel’s Russia probe will extend into 2019
© Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia's 2016 election interference will extend into 2019, the panel's chairman says.

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' GOP chairman says Senate impeachment trial could last 6-8 weeks MORE (R-N.C.) told Bloomberg News in an interview published Friday that the committee expects to continue interviewing witnesses next year behind closed doors.

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When asked how long the committee will take to issue a report once interviews are concluded, Burr said that as many as “six months" could elapse while warning that future testimony by committee witnesses will likely be private.

The Senate committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Google sparks new privacy fears over health care data MORE (Va.), concurred with Burr in telling Bloomberg that the probe would likely not wrap up anytime soon, though he has been pushing for more public proceedings.

"I don’t see the need for public hearings," Burr said. "I don’t see that happening."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE has long signaled impatience with the investigations into Russia's election meddling and pushed for them to be wrapped up as soon as possible.

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing MORE (I-Maine), a member of the Intelligence panel, said last month that he hoped the probe would conclude by the end of 2018, though such a prospect now appears unlikely.

“I’m hoping we can finish by the end of the year,” said King, who caucuses with Democrats. “We’ve pretty much completed the work on the social media part, and then after that is the hard part — the collusion issue. And we’re working on it. We’re interviewing witnesses, so we’re at it.”

Questions over whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia knowingly during the 2016 election are likely to divide the panel, which has so far remained largely collegiate and bipartisan, compared to the partisan rancor that divided members of the committee's House counterpart.

Several Democratic senators, including Oregon Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenAlcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline GOP senator blasts Dem bills on 'opportunity zones' Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism MORE, have claimed that previously known reports about Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr's 'Triggered' debuts at No. 1 on NY Times bestseller list GOP motions to subpoena whistleblower University of Florida student government president faces impeachment over Trump Jr. appearance MORE's meeting with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin during the campaign shows “an intent to collude,” though Democrats have hesitated to say that they have seen evidence of collusion.

Trump has largely dismissed the congressional and special counsel investigations into Russia's election interference as "witch hunts" despite several former high-ranking members of his campaign falling under criminal indictment.