WASHINGTON — The Senate Select Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election will move into the interview phase next week, with 20 people expected to talk to Senate investigators about Russia's role in President Donald Trump's win and possible ties to the campaign, the heads of the committee said Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., confirmed that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, will be interviewed. They said they have requested 20 interviews, with five already confirmed. Those interviewed will include intelligence experts who wrote a report released Jan. 6, the senators said.
They had no comment on the resignation of former national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, or whether he would be interviewed. Flynn resigned for misleading the White House about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Seven committee staff members are reviewing "thousands" of documents supplied by the intelligence community, including, without precedent, intelligence previously only accessible to the so-called Gang of Eight — the eight top House and Senate leaders from both parties who are briefed on classified intelligence issues, said Burr.
On Thursday, the committee will hold its first hearing on the Russian role, focusing on Russian influence efforts as well as the country's cyber capabilities.
Burr said the committee will not coordinate with the White House on the investigation, nor will it coordinate with the House Intelligence Committee. He also said it is too early to draw any conclusions.
"Getting it right is more important than getting it quickly," Warner said.
FBI director James Comey confirmed on March 20 that the FBI is investigating Russian interference into U.S. election and links between Trump's campaign team and Russia.
The Russian attack involved thousands of paid internet trolls taking over computers and generating fake news aimed at specific geographic areas like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, said Warner.
"If you Google 'election hacking,' you will not get Fox News, New York Times. What you get is — four out of the first five — RT News, Sputnik," Warner said.
Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik are state-sponsored news organizations of the Russian government.
Russia has waged public information campaigns in Ukraine, but "there is no evidence to date that these messages are reaching audiences previously unfavorable to them and changing minds," said Dr. Olga Oliker, senior advisor and director of Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International studies, during a Committee on Armed Services hearing Wednesday morning.
Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of House Intelligence Committee, is under fire for claiming Trump's staff might be under surveillance after seeing intelligence reports and for briefing the president before breifing his committee.