President Trump continued Wednesday to highlight statements by the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that its investigation has found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign even as the panel’s top Democrat said that assessment is premature.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee: THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA!” Trump wrote in a predawn tweet.
He was referring to comments by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee’s chairman, that to this point the investigation has not found direct evidence of coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential race.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the panel’s vice chairman, said Tuesday that he “respectfully” disagrees with Burr.
“I’m not going to get into any conclusions I’ve reached because my basis of this has been that I’m not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation,” Warner told CNN. “And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back.”
The divergence is a rare split between Burr and Warner, who have sought to highlight the bipartisan nature of the committee’s two-year investigation into Russian election interference.
In an interview with CBS last week, Burr said that his assessment was “based on the evidence to date.”
“If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” Burr said.
On Tuesday, Burr repeated to reporters that “we don’t have any” evidence of collusion. Asked whether the committee’s investigation exonerated Trump, Burr said: “Just saying what factually we’ve found to date. We haven’t finished our investigation.”
Last week, Trump seized on Burr’s comments to CBS, writing that the “mainstream media has refused to cover the fact that the head of the VERY important Senate Intelligence Committee, after two years of intensive study and access to Intelligence that only they could get, just stated that they have found NO COLLUSION between ‘Trump’ & Russia.”
In the tweet he went on to call investigations into the matter, including that of special counsel Robert S. Muller III, a “GIANT AND ILLEGAL HOAX.”
A lawyer on Mueller’s team said in a court record this month that one of the special counsel’s main tasks is examining contacts between Americans and Russia during the 2016 race to determine whether Trump associates conspired with the Russian-backed interference campaign.
During a television interview Wednesday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Burr’s assessment of “no collusion” was more evidence that the country should focus on other issues.
“It’s exactly what we’ve been saying all along. We’re glad that they finally caught up,” Sanders said on Fox News. “I think it’s time for everybody to be able to move on and move forward so we can focus on the big things that Americans actually care about. This certainly isn’t one of them.”