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Senate panel breaks with House, says Russia sought to help Trump win in 2016

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they agree with the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks MORE win the White House.

“We see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNorth Carolina mayor Rett Newton launches Senate bid Democratic hopeful Jeff Jackson raises .3M for North Carolina Senate bid Rick Scott 'very optimistic' Grassley will run for another term MORE (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

“There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.”

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As part of its investigation into Russian meddling, the committee has for several months been reviewing the January 2017 assessment compiled by top U.S. intelligence officials.

The assessment found that Russia sought to interfere in the election for three reasons: to undermine U.S. democracy, to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report Pence autobiography coming from Simon & Schuster Amanda Gorman makes the cover of Vogue MORE and to help Trump win the White House. 

On Wednesday, committee lawmakers met behind closed doors with former top intelligence officials who played a major role in compiling the assessment. In a joint statement following that meeting, Burr and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerA bold fix for US international taxation of corporations Democrats offer competing tax ideas on Biden infrastructure Five ways an obscure Senate ruling could change Washington MORE (D-Va.) signaled their agreement with the findings. 

“After a thorough review, our staff concluded that the [intelligence community assessment] conclusions were accurate and on point,” Warner said. “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.” 

Their statement represents a break with the Republican-led House investigation, which did not support the conclusion that Russia sought to help Trump win.

However, some Republicans on the House Intelligence panel signaled disagreement with some of the final conclusions. Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyPompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy The Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election MORE (R-S.C.) said in March that it was “clear, based on the evidence, Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating Russia’s interference plot for more than a year. Burr told reporters earlier this month that he expects the inquiry to be completed by August. The House Intelligence Committee has also completed its own investigating.

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE is spearheading the federal investigation into Russian interference — including whether their was coordination between President Trump's campaign and Moscow. 

The Senate panel has already released its initial findings on Russian cyberattacks against U.S. voting infrastructure, finding that Moscow conducted an “unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign” against the nation’s digital election systems. 

The senators met with former National Security Agency Director Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersBiden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Biden's prediction on Afghanistan withdrawal spurs doubts Republicans downplay military's extremism issue in hearing MORE, former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal Online and frighteningly real: 'A Taste of Armageddon' MORE, and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert Clapper140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack The biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE earlier Wednesday.

The committee had also invited former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyShowtime developing limited series about Jan. 6 Capitol riot Wray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges MORE to attend, though he ultimately declined, citing a conflict. The former officials’ testimony is expected to inform the committee’s final report capping the Russia probe.

- Updated at 3:05 p.m.