After a week of unflattering news reports about the state of its investigation, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine have reaffirmed their confidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and Moscow’s contacts with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

With the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference hampered by partisan divisions, all eyes have been on the probe being conducted by the Senate panel, on which King and Collins, both members, have done their best to project bipartisan unity. But two news stories last week reported that the committee is understaffed, stymied by partisan divisions and making little progress.

Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News reported that “multiple sources involved in the probe” told him that the committee had yet to subpoena any documents and that requests for crucial evidence had been stalled because its chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., hasn’t signed the letters to do so. Burr was a member of Trump’s transition team, and in February he was criticized by both of Maine’s senators for agreeing to help the White House sow doubts among reporters about media reports on contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The wide-ranging probe is looking into communications and possible collusion between Russia and any of the presidential campaigns, Russia’s hacking and attempted hacking of the Democratic and Republican National Committee databases, and Russian attempts to probe critical infrastructure, including state election databases and voting machines.

But Reuters has reported that only seven part-time staffers on the Senate panel have been assigned to review the voluminous raw intelligence documents connected with the investigation, far fewer then the committee’s investigation of “enhanced” interrogation techniques by the CIA under George W. Bush, which had 20 staffers, or the House investigation of the Benghazi attack, which had 46 staffers and eight interns.

But both King and Collins say they have confidence in the probe, even if they would like to see it pick up the pace, and do not think it would be constructive to transfer the investigation to a special committee, as some members of Congress have demanded.


“Yes, I still have confidence in the process,” King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said in an interview with the Maine Sunday Telegram. “I would like to see it go faster, but I would much rather get it right than get it fast. The important thing is that we’re still working very much on a nonpartisan basis.”

Collins, a member of the Senate’s Republican majority, echoed those remarks in a written statement to the newspaper.

“I have confidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation will be thorough and follow the evidence wherever it may lead,” Collins said, adding that the committee’s leaders “work well together, and the members of our committee on both sides of the aisle are committed to conducting a credible investigation and to reporting our findings to the American people.”

“While I would like the investigation to proceed more quickly, I think it is more important that we be thorough,” Collins said.

King said the slow pace of the probe had been primarily caused by two factors, neither of them related to partisan political interests. There had been time-consuming negotiations with the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over who from the committee could have access to raw intelligence documents and under what conditions. Separately, there had been a need to avoid tripping up the FBI’s own investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, the existence of which was revealed by FBI Director James Comey in March.

“It’s tricky to coordinate the two,” King said. “We don’t want to compromise what they are doing or their investigation of their witnesses.”


Both senators said steps would be taken to ensure the committee’s probe was fully and properly staffed, noting that two more staffers had been brought on this past week.

“To date, the staffing of the investigation has been sufficient for the initial stage,” Collins said in her statement.

“I have, however, recommended to the leaders of the Committee that it would be helpful to hire a former prosecutor or a highly experienced investigator as we move to the next stage of our investigation” when they begin to interview “members of President Trump’s campaign team, and those individuals will likely be accompanied by counsel.”

King emphasized that the investigation also needed to examine Russian attempts to infiltrate the states’ election systems themselves, including voter registration rolls. “If they are able to change vote totals and things like that – which I don’t think they were doing this time – that would be catastrophic for our democracy,” King said. “They weren’t doing this for fun, they are practicing and learning.”

Impatience with the probe is growing among Democrats, however.

“The last few weeks, things have moved very, very slowly under Burr’s leadership. And I’m a little troubled about it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday.

“Things have moved too slowly for my taste and a lot of the members of the committee’s taste.”

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