Despite reports of a lack of progress in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, the two Maine senators who serve on the panel said they think it’s still on track.
“While I would have hoped that the committee would be moving faster, my sense is that this investigation, at least thus far, has been conducted in a nonpartisan manner and I believe that’s worth the deliberateness in the schedule,” said U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent.
He said it’s important, especially after the implosion of the U.S. House investigation, “that we try to maintain forward momentum and not break down along partisan lines,” King said.
Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, told CNN that she wishes “there were a way that it could go even more quickly, but I think it’s important that we be thorough.”
An array of stories in major media sources Monday cited anonymous complaints that the 15-member committee hasn’t moved fast enough to hire full-time staff and bring experts aboard. They also said a partisan rift may be at the root of the problem.
Reuters, for example, said progress “has been sluggish and minimal” in part because there are only seven staff members working on it, none exclusively.
Yahoo News said Senate Democrats are “privately complaining the probe is underfunded, understaffed and too timid in pushing to get to the bottom of one of the most explosive political stories in years.”
But Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Democrat Mark Warner, his party’s leader on the panel, have both maintained a public stance of bipartisanship that stands in marked contrast to the chaos that enveloped a House committee looking into the issue.
King said that trying to avoid a split along party lines may mean “that it takes longer to reach a final agreement on some aspects of the investigation.”
“I don’t know of any partisan delays, and the staff continues to work diligently, so I continue to have confidence in the committee and believe we are moving in the same direction,” he said.
“If I feel like it’s going in the wrong direction, or not going at all, I’ll be the first to say it, but right now I don’t feel that way,” the senator said.
Collins told CNN that the two committee leaders “work extremely well together” and that members “get a briefing all the time from them every week on where we are” with the investigation.
King also has said that having experts testify was a helpful step.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday found that nearly three-quarters of Americans want an independent, nonpartisan commission to oversee the investigation instead of a congressional panel.
It found, too, that 61 percent of Americans have no confidence or “only a little” confidence in Congress to carry out a fair, impartial probe on the issue.
The government hasn’t made much information public to back up an assertion by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia deliberately aimed to interfere in the presidential showdown between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
An unclassified version of a report in January said the Russians tried to help Trump.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the issue for any possible criminal wrongdoing.