Senate's Russia Probe to Extend Deep Into 2019, Chairman Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate’s bipartisan Russia probe could stretch well into the first half of 2019, according to Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, despite President Donald Trump’s fatigue with investigations of his campaign.

Burr said the panel could take as long as “six months" after completing all its interviews to craft and declassify a final report. And the committee hasn’t yet finished meeting with witnesses, as they keep running down leads in the investigation.

Senate's Russia Probe to Extend Deep Into 2019, Chairman Says

But don’t expect much visible progress in the coming months. Burr remains dug in against Democratic Senator Mark Warner’s push for public hearings with key figures like Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.

"I don’t see the need for public hearings," Burr said in an interview. "I don’t see that happening."

The nearly two-year-old probe helmed by Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Warner has already resulted in several public hearings, including on Russian social media influence operations. And panel staffers are still preparing interim reports on social media and the Obama administration’s handling of the Russian efforts.

Burr and Warner have remained remarkably collegial in handling their probe and they say they aim to make joint recommendations about how to protect the country in the future. But it’s unclear they will be able to reach joint conclusions about what happened, particularly when it comes to the involvement of Trump associates.

Warner said there are a lot of questions still to answer and he isn’t committing to an endpoint for the probe either.

The focus on the Senate panel, meanwhile, could be reduced next year, since Democrats will control committees in the House -- and wield subpoena power. The Republicans who currently lead the House Intelligence Committee shut down its Russia probe earlier this year, but Democrats have signaled they may reopen it in 2019.

Already, the lines of television cameras outside the Senate Intelligence Committee’s offices, aimed at getting a peek at witnesses, have disappeared.

The committee is starting the slow process of drafting a final report. The declassification process will likely be laborious. Committee staffers have interviewed numerous witnesses behind closed doors and have had access to a massive cache of classified documents kept in a room at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Burr’s extended timeline for a final report also would give the committee some leeway to react to whatever else comes out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Burr and Warner have split on speaking out on Mueller -- with Warner publicly urging his Republican colleagues to publicly send a message to Trump that Mueller’s probe must continue without interference after the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Burr, however, didn’t express concern that Mueller could be in trouble when asked.

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