National Security

Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review

The intelligence community (IC) recently returned the last volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia interference report to the panel after conducting a declassification review, which means the highly-anticipated report could be publicly released in a matter of weeks, The Hill has learned.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) returned the fifth volume of the committee’s Russia report, which focuses on its counterintelligence findings, to the panel last week, according to a source familiar with the matter. 

The panel and ODNI are expected to have a back-and-forth review process over the redactions that were made by the IC, which means it will likely be weeks before the declassified version of the report is released to the public. 

Then-Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) — the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee who spearheaded the bipartisan investigation — sent the report to ODNI in mid-May and asked Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to conduct an expeditious declassification review. 

The release of the report will bring to a close the panel’s years-long, deep-diving probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

The Senate panel launched its bipartisan probe in January 2017 and it quickly became one of the most high-profile congressional investigations in recent years. It sought to determine if members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia during the heated presidential race. 

Unlike the House Intelligence Committee’s parallel Russia probe, the Senate panel has been able to work in a largely bipartisan manner and without the acrimony. Still, the probe has cast a shadow over the White House and at times has faced attacks from President Trump and his allies.

This report will follow four earlier volumes the committee has already released, which focused on U.S. election security, Russia’s disinformation campaign on social media platforms, how the Obama administration responded to Russian interference, and most recently, the January 2017 intelligence community assessment.

One day before the committee made its classification announcement of the final volume, Burr announced that he was temporarily stepping aside as chairman of the Senate panel amid a federal investigation into stock trades that he made at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Burr said in a statement that the panel’s work is “too important to risk hindering it in any way.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is serving as acting chairman of the panel. 

Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Warner’s office declined to comment.

The release of volume five will conclude the last ongoing investigation into the 2016 election. It follows former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that ended last year and the House Intelligence Committee’s probe which concluded in 2018.

Mueller’s probe did not find evidence that members of the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Russia during the 2016 election, but he did not make a determination either way as to whether Trump obstructed justice. 

The special counsel’s report also extensively detailed the years-long, multi-pronged attacks by Russia to sow discord in the U.S. through cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. 

The conclusion of the Senate committee’s probe comes as security officials and experts are warning that Russia will likely seek to interfere in the upcoming presidential election — as well as other countries.

“I am confident that many countries will do their level best to have an impact on our election,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month, during a virtual event hosted by The Hill. 

This time, however, Pompeo and other officials are projecting confidence that they are working to keep the elections safe.

“Foreign efforts to interfere in American elections is something we constantly must contend with,” Pompeo added.

“The American people should rest assured that whether it’s Chinese interference, Iranian interference, Russian interference, or North Korean interference, any country, or even non-state actors who now have capabilities to try to meddle in our elections, know that this administration takes seriously its responsibility to make sure every American’s vote is counted, counted properly, and that foreign influence is minimized,” Pompeo said. 

 

Tags Donald Trump Intelligence Committee intelligence community John Ratcliffe Marco Rubio Mark Warner Mike Pompeo Mueller report Richard Burr Robert Mueller Russia Russian interference

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