Senate Intelligence Committee Set to Probe Russian Influence on US Election

Trump's young presidency has been clouded by allegations from US intelligence agencies that Russian Federation sought to help him win, while connections between his campaign personnel and Russian Federation also are under scrutiny. In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said definitively that Putin ordered a carefully constructed campaign to undermine last year's presidential election.

And, the senators warned, the Russians aren't done.

Members of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence launched into their first day of hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 election Thursday, answering months of calls from Democrats and some Republicans for a Capitol Hill probe.

In testimony before the committee, Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute Program on National Security, talked about how this might have occurred. Watts testified social media campaigns targeted Ryan "hoping to foment further unrest amongst US democratic institutions".

"All candidates were targeted", Watts told reporters after the hearing, "it hurt him, but it also hurt people like Jeb Bush; it hurt other candidates on the Republican side".

Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey said last Monday that his agency has been conducting a Russian Federation probe since July that includes potential coordination between the Trump team and Russian Federation.

In the afternoon, the committee heard from experts in cybersecurity including a former head of the National Security Agency, Keith Alexander, who talked about the techniques Russian Federation uses to influence the politics of foreign governments.

Watts said he and colleagues observed possibly fake social media accounts discrediting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan last week as the health care bill collapsed, and Russian Federation is trying to use similar tactics to influence European elections. Vladimir Putin himself on Thursday dismissed what he called "endless and groundless" accusations of Russian meddling.

"The committee will go wherever the intelligence leads us", Efe news agency quoted committee Chairman Richard Burr as saying during a press conference.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has been under fire for meeting with the president without conferring with his committee, and publicly announcing that Obama administration inadvertently collected surveillance on Trump transition associates during a broader intelligence probe, based on reports he had seen. Spicer wouldn't say exactly what the information was but said it was found by national security staff "in the ordinary course of business". He also has refused to disclose the source of the information.

He also said Kremlin operatives hacked into American institutions to steal and weaponize information.

  • Larry Hoffman