Well, here’s a good sign that our money used to investigate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and its connections to those perfidious Kremlinites has been well-spent: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says that when it comes to collusion with the Russians, they “don’t have anything” on the president.
In an interview with CBS News, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the committee, said the panel is “close to pushing out the door” a report detailing the Obama administration’s response to Russian interference in the election.
In the interview, published Thursday, the senator said the report would be out in “a matter of weeks.” However, he predicted in August that the report would be out in September.
“I’m not going to tell you that what we set out to do — which was to understand what happened in ’16 — is what’s extended the life of the investigation,” Burr said. “I think it’s a better understanding of what happened and how coordinated and organized the effort was.”
And from the sound of things, the committee has found significant election interference. What it hasn’t found, however, is that rascally Russian collusion.
“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.
In a Fox News appearance back in September, Burr had already said that the committee had found no “hard evidence” of such collusion. In the interview with CBS News, he said that assessment was “accurate with everything we’ve accumulated since then.”
First, I know CBS News’ piece was more of a profile of Burr and the work his committee is doing, but let’s talk about burying the lede. I always enjoy, in pieces like this, seeing how far the information the media might find problematic is submerged.
In this article, we’ve set some sort of record.
That quote about not having “anything that would suggest there was collusion”– which is what most other news outlets seized upon — was in the 84th paragraph.
That’s not hyperbole. I didn’t accidentally press an extra key there.
Usually, burying that kind of information in the eighth or ninth paragraph draws attention to itself. The fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman doesn’t believe there’s any evidence of collusion appeared so far down in the story that it’s within putting distance of 100 paragraphs makes this one a special kind of insanity.
Just for comparison’s sake, here’s some of the information you can glean from the fourth paragraph: “Burr, who is known in Senate hallways for his preference to go sockless and the two-fingered hook that often bears his jacket, has spoken little about the probe he leads. But he thinks deeply about how its conclusions should be presented. And he acknowledges now that the investigation is broader, and perhaps more consequential, than it has long been thought to be.”
I understand that this is supposed to be a thoughtful, long-form feature piece on Burr and his committee’s investigation, but even given that form, you might want to put the fact he doesn’t think that there’s any evidence of collusion somewhere around where you say he doesn’t like wearing socks, not 80 paragraphs later.
This is also a fairly thorough investigation we’re talking about here, not a partisan hack job; even CBS News acknowledged “the inquiry … has been held up as the last bastion of bipartisanship in Washington.”
“Many of the connections that we’ve made are the direct result of intelligence products,” Burr told CBS. “I think it’s safe to say we’ve interviewed people that I don’t even know if the special counsel knows about them — but you’ve got to remember that we’re on a totally separate path than what they are.”
He added that other investigators “would’ve never had access to some of the documents that we were able to access from the intelligence community,” noting that it was “a precedent of information-sharing that had not ever existed in the history of the country.”
It remains to be seen what the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report will say, of course. For all we know, the committee’s ranking Democrat — Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia — will end up going all Adam Schiff on Burr’s Devin Nunes and denounce this finding.
“If the committee’s driven based upon the facts that we have at hand, I have a very difficult time understanding how you can come to two different conclusions,” Burr told CBS News. “Unless, for the first time, you let politics come into play.”
If this is the final verdict of the Senate Intelligence Committee, how different is the special counsel’s conclusion going to be?
In terms of Mueller’s investigation, the big headlines have come from a phalanx of heavily armed FBI agents pulling a sexagenarian out of bed so that he could get dragged into court and charged with process crimes, only to be released later in the afternoon.
While the Roger Stone indictment tried to come up with something that smelled like Russian collusion, it fell way short.
Now comes the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee saying that he doesn’t see any of it, probably beating him to the anticlimactic punch.
Let’s face facts: If the special counsel report amounts to nothing more than a series of vague insinuations when it comes to Russia, it will have been a dud — and a huge waste of time, money and effort.
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