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 BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post 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 WarnerSenate Democrats introduce legislation to limit foreign interference in elections Navy acknowledges footage of 'unidentified' flying objects California Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action 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 TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year 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 WydenDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Lobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs MORE, have claimed that previously known reports about Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDemocrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties Trump dismisses NYT explanation on Kavanaugh correction The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 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.