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Congress to Trump, basically: Russia is not fake news

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-S.C.) said "we have not come to any final conclusions" about the Russia investigation on Oct. 4. (Video: Reuters)

This post has been updated with Trump's latest tweet about the Russia investigation. 

As recently as two weeks ago, the president called the allegations that Russia helped him win the 2016 election a hoax.

“One of the great hoaxes,” he said at a campaign rally in Alabama.

As recently as Thursday morning, Trump seemed to suggest that the Senate's top committee looking into Russia was looking into the wrong thing:

Congress sees it differently. The Senate's investigation into Russian meddling and whether Trump's 2016 campaign helped isn't complete, but lawmakers announced Wednesday that they've reached some conclusions, and those conclusions contradict how Trump has approached Russia.

Here are four things a Republican senator and a Democratic senator say they know about Russia after eight months of investigating, hundreds of hours of interviews with more than 100 people and nearly 100,000 pages of documents reviewed.

1. “There is consensus among members and staff that we trust the conclusions” of the intelligence community's assessment. — Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Translation: In January, the U.S. intelligence community said Russia carried out a comprehensive cyber campaign to sabotage the presidential election and help Trump win. It was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. We looked into it and there's no reason to doubt that conclusion, Burr is saying, even though Trump has questioned it several times.

2. “The Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously.” — Burr

Translation: Burr was urging upcoming campaigns and state election officials to be on high alert that Russia will try to mess with future elections. But his advice could also apply to Trump, who has been accused of brushing off the notion of Russia meddling.

3. “We have more work to do as it relates to Russia collusion, but we're developing a clearer picture of what happened.” — Burr

Translation: At the very least, accusations that the Trump campaign worked with Russia are not a hoax. It's worth significant time and resources for the Senate Intelligence Committee to continue investigating. Same goes for an independent investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

4. “You can't walk away from this and believe that Russia is not active in trying to create chaos in our election process.” — Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.)

Translation: The senators haven't concluded much beyond ruling that Russia meddled in the election and could be trying to do it again. They're still investigating Trump campaign officials' meetings with Russians, former FBI director James B. Comey's allegations that Trump tried to get him to back off Russia and the Republican campaign platform's switch to a Russia-friendly position.

But the senators were ready to definitively say that Russia did three things in the U.S. election.

1. They hacked into emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign director John Podesta to try to damage Clinton politically.

2. They “actively tried” to get into 21 states' election systems, either to mess with the voter registration or undermine citizens' confidence that their votes were accurately counted.

3. They exploited Facebook, Twitter and other social media by buying ads and creating fake accounts with the aim to “sow chaos or drive division in our country.”

“I fear sometimes if you add up all this, there was a decent rate of return,” Warner said.

One thing Russia did NOT do: The senators said they can “certifiably say” that Russia did not change any votes that were cast. States' voter registration systems and the systems that count votes are two different things.