Senate panel chief calls Russia-Trump campaign collusion an ‘open’ issue

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman said on Wednesday the issue of whether President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia remains an open question as the panel intensifies its probe into the matter.

Republican Senator Richard Burr, the chairman, told reporters the committee plans to conduct 25 more interviews with witnesses this month.

“The issue of collusion is still open,” said Burr, standing alongside the committee’s top Democrat, Mark Warner.

“We have not come to any determination on collusion,” Burr added.

Trump has called allegations of campaign collusion with Moscow a hoax. Questions about the matter have persisted since he took office in January. A special counsel appointed by the Justice Department has pressed ahead with a separate probe.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the election to try to help Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in part by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails.

The Senate panel is the main congressional committee investigating.

“The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion,” Burr said. “Now, I‘m not even going to discuss initial findings because we haven’t any. We’ve got a tremendous amount of documents still to go through.”

He said the panel has conducted more than 100 interviews lasting more than 250 hours, and “we currently have booked for the balance of this month 25 additional interviews.”

Burr also issued a warning to Russia about future elections.

“You can’t walk away from this and believe that Russia’s not currently active in trying to create chaos in our election process. And I assume that the same tactics that you saw in Montenegro, in France, in Belgium and in the United States will continue to be tested within our structure of the election process,” Burr said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Howard Goller

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