Senate gives limited resources to Russia
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[April 25, 2017]
By Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate's main
investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S.
presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than
previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which
could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a
Reuters review of public records.
With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate
Intelligence Committee's three-month-old investigation, progress has
been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the
matter, who requested anonymity.
A committee aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said two more
staff members were being added and a few others were involved less
"We need to pick up the pace," Senator Martin Heinrich, a committee
Democrat, told Reuters on Monday. "It is incumbent on us to have the
resources to do this right and expeditiously, and I think we need
While some directly involved in the investigation disputed
characterizations of the probe as off track, the appearance of a weak
Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump
critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to
investigate the allegations.
The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives
have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to
influence the election in Republican Trump's favor, mostly by hacking
Democratic operatives' emails and releasing embarrassing information, or
possibly by colluding with Trump associates. Russia has denied such
With the House intelligence panel's investigation for weeks stymied by
partisan squabbles, the Senate committee's parallel probe had appeared
to be the more serious of the two, with Republican Chairman Richard Burr
and top Democrat Mark Warner promising a thorough and bipartisan effort.
Burr, a member of Congress since 1995, last month called the Russia
probe one of the biggest investigations undertaken in Congress during
Previous investigations of national security matters have been much
larger in terms of staffing than the one Burr is overseeing, according
to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries, which
traditionally name every staff member involved. (Graphic:
A House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a U.S.
diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46
staffers and eight interns.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's years-long study of the CIA's
"enhanced" interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush's
administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel's official
A special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the
intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion
of Iraq involved 88 staffers.
A special Senate committee's 1970s investigation into Watergate-era
surveillance practices tapped 133 staffers.
A joint House-Senate probe of the 1980s Iran-Contra affair during Ronald
Reagan's presidency involving secret sales of arms to Iran to try to win
the release of American hostages, with proceeds going to Nicaraguan
rebels, had 181 staffers.
[to top of second column]
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC),
accompanied by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), vice chairman of the
committee, speaks at a news conference to discuss their probe of
Russian interference in the 2016 election on Capitol Hill in
Washington, D.C., U.S., March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P.
Spokeswomen for Burr and for Warner declined to comment on the
'INDICATORS OF A COMMITMENT'
The listed sizes of various investigations may be an imperfect
comparison because not all staffers listed may have actually had a
substantial role, congressional sources said. Investigations often
grow in size over time, and a committee aide said the panel had
secured $1.2 million in additional funding for the Russia election
But the numbers are still broadly "relevant as indicators of a
commitment to an investigation," said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy
expert with the Federation of American Scientists.
"For this investigation to be successful, the committee must
recognize the enormity of the job and provide the resources to
tackle it," Senator Ron Wyden, another committee Democrat, said in a
Wyden sent a letter last month to Burr and Warner requesting that
the probe include a thorough review of any financial ties between
Russia and Trump and his associates.
None of the staffers possess substantial investigative experience or
a background in Russian affairs, two of the sources said.
The investigation has not yet conducted interviews with Trump
associates suspected of having links to Russian intelligence
services, two sources and the aide said.
The investigators have focused on reviewing thousands of pages of
documents supporting a previous U.S. intelligence agency finding
that Russia interfered to help Trump, and have spoken with
intelligence officials in preparation for interviewing key
witnesses, they said.
The House intelligence panel's chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, who
was a member of Trump's presidential transition team, on April 6
stepped aside from leading that probe because he was under
investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly disclosing
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also conducting a wide
ranging counter-intelligence investigation into alleged Russian
interference and potential collusion with Trump associates, though
its findings may never become public.
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Additional reporting by Patricia
Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Will Dunham)
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