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US Senate Panel Provides Update on Russia Probe

  • Michael Bowman

The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed it is continuing to investigate whether elements of President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 U.S. election, while warning that Russian meddling could expand and threaten future elections.

"The issue of collusion is still open," said the committee's chairman, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, at a news conference Wednesday. "We have more work to do as it relates to collusion, but we're developing a clearer picture of what happened."

Despite dropping no bombshells about Trump's inner circle, Burr and the committee's ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, said they felt compelled to go public with other conclusions reached so far.

"The Russian active measures did not end on Election Day 2016," Warner said, adding that the United States should take a "more aggressive whole government approach" to combat Russian interference.

"What I will confirm is that the Russian intelligence service is determined, clever," Burr said. "And I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously."

Danger remains

Many on Trump's national security team agree with the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in last year's election in favor of Trump. The president, however, has not concurred.

U.S. investigators recently revealed that Russian hackers attempted to penetrate balloting systems in nearly two dozen U.S. states. While they may not have succeeded last year, Burr and Warner said the danger remains as two states hold elections just weeks from now, and America's midterm elections loom next year.

"You could pick two or three states and two or three jurisdictions, and alter an election [outcome]," Warner said.

Use of social media

Russia's use of social media platforms to sow disinformation and chaos also has come to light.

"I was concerned at first that some of these social media platform companies did not take this threat seriously enough," Warner said. "I believe they are recognizing that threat now. They have provided us with information."

The Senate Intelligence Committee has interviewed more than 100 witnesses and reviewed nearly 100,000 documents in what remains an open-ended probe.

Burr said Russia was "pretty darn successful" creating "chaos at every level" of last year's election. Whether the Kremlin did so with any help from Trump's campaign team is still being investigated, with no end date in sight.

VOA's Wayne Lee contributed to this report.

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