WASHINGTON — Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is nowhere near ready to move on from an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Warner assailed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Donald Trump for their public declarations that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings exonerated the president and that it’s time to move on. McConnell declared “case closed” Tuesday on the Senate floor.
“I think that’s outrageous. I think that is not appropriate,” Warner told reporters Thursday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
He warned that Russian agents or others will try again in 2020, and that it’s the government’s job to ensure that it doesn’t happen. “The playbook is out there,” he said.
Warner has taken a more cautious tone than many of his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill as he and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) attempt to issue a bipartisan report on Russian meddling. Burr has suggested the report could be completed by August; Warner said Thursday he supports that goal.
The Virginia senator said his committee’s report will have plenty of information that wasn’t included in Mueller’s findings. The intelligence panel was aware of more than 90 percent of what Mueller laid out about the contacts and patterns of Russians seeking to meddle in the 2016 election, Warner said.
“We will have other areas that will frankly be much more extensive than what Mueller had and much more descriptive about the organized ongoing effort,” he said.
And he lashed out at Trump and his administration for attempting to stonewall congressional investigators, calling the president’s clash with Congress a constitutional “confrontation.”
He said the actions “of this White House, whether it’s trying to stymie congressional investigations or prohibit Mueller from speaking, prohibit [former White House counsel Don] McGahn from talking, these are not the actions of an individual who thinks he’s in the clear.”
The Senate intelligence panel has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., several news outlets reported this week, signaling Burr isn’t as eager as some of his GOP colleagues to quickly wrap up the investigation. Trump Jr. previously testified before Senate investigators.
Warner declined to comment on that subpoena or the specifics of his committee’s work on Thursday, but noted that the panel always reserves the right to call witnesses back.
Republican members of the intelligence panel, including some “very, very conservative senators” aren’t the ones leading the charge to put the investigations behind them, Warner said, “because they’ve seen the evidence.”
The committee has been able to keep its efforts bipartisan through “hard work,” Warner said.
But he wants desperately to keep it that way.
“If this becomes an only one-party struggle, then I screwed up,” he said.