Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released “Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure,” the first volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections.

Today’s installment builds upon the unclassified summary findings on election security released by the Committee in May 2018. This was the first volume completed due to the fundamental importance and urgency of defending our democratic elections. 

As part of its investigation, the Committee will also release final volumes examining the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Russian interference, the Obama Administration’s response to Russian interference, the role of social media disinformation campaigns, and remaining counterintelligence questions. The Committee has submitted its volume on social media for declassification review and intends to release the remaining installments in fall 2019.

Over the last two and half years, the Committee’s investigation has spanned more than 15 open hearings, more than 200 witness interviews, and nearly 400,000 documents.

Statement from Chairman Burr:

“In 2016, the U.S. was unprepared at all levels of government for a concerted attack from a determined foreign adversary on our election infrastructure. Since then, we have learned much more about the nature of Russia’s cyber activities and better understand the real and urgent threat they pose. The Department of Homeland Security and state and local elections officials have dramatically changed how they approach election security, working together to bridge gaps in information sharing and shore up vulnerabilities. The progress they’ve made over the last three years is a testament to what we can accomplish when we give people the opportunity to be part of a solution.

“There is still much work that remains to be done, however. I am grateful to the many states that provided their points of view, which helped inform our recommendations. It is my hope that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan report will provide the American people with valuable insight into the election security threats still facing our nation and the ways we can address them.”

Statement from Vice Chairman Warner:

“When the Russians attacked elections systems in 2016, neither the federal government nor the states were adequately prepared. Our bipartisan investigation identified multiple problems and information gaps that hindered our ability to effectively respond and defend against the Russian attack in 2016. Since then – and in large part as a result of the bipartisan work done on this issue in our Committee – the intelligence community, DHS, the FBI, and the states have taken steps to ensure that our elections are far more secure today than they were in 2016. But there’s still much more we can and must do to protect our elections. I hope the bipartisan findings and recommendations outlined in this report will underscore to the White House and all of our colleagues, regardless of political party, that this threat remains urgent, and we have a responsibility to defend our democracy against it.”

You can read, “Volume I: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructurehere.

Key Findings and Recommendations:

  • The Russian government directed extensive activity against U.S. election infrastructure. The Committee found the activity directed at the state and local level began in at least 2014 and carried into at least 2017. The Committee has seen no evidence that any votes were changed or that any voting machines were manipulated.
  • Russian efforts exploited the seams between federal authorities and capabilities, and protection for the states. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are, by design, limited in domestic cybersecurity authorities. State election officials, who have primacy in running elections, were not sufficiently warned or prepared to handle an attack from a hostile nation-state actor.
  • DHS and FBI warnings to the states in the late summer and fall of 2016 did not provide enough information or go to the appropriate people. The Committee found that while the alerts were actionable, they provided no clear reason for states to take the threat more seriously than other warnings.
  • DHS has redoubled its efforts to build trust with the states and deploy resources to assist in securing elections. Since 2016, DHS has made great strides in learning how election procedures vary across states and how to best assist those states. The Committee determined DHS’s work to bolster states’ cybersecurity has likely been effective but believes more needs to be done to coordinate efforts.
  • Russian activities demand renewed attention to vulnerabilities in U.S. voting infrastructure. Cybersecurity for electoral infrastructure at the state and local level was sorely lacking in 2016. Despite increased focus over the last three years, some of these vulnerabilities, including aging voting equipment, remain. As states look to replace machines that are now out of date, they should purchase more secure voting machines. At a minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail.
  • Congress should evaluate the results of the $380 million in state election security grants allocated in 2018. States should be able to use grant funds provided under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to improve cybersecurity in a variety of ways, including hiring additional IT staff, updating software, and contracting vendors to provide cybersecurity services. When those funds are spent, Congress should evaluate the results and consider an additional appropriation to address remaining insecure voting machines and systems.
  • DHS and other federal government entities remain respectful of the limits of federal involvement in state election systems. America’s decentralized election system can be a strength against cybersecurity threats. However, the federal government and states should each be aware of their own cybersecurity limitations and know both how and when to obtain assistance. States should remain firmly in the lead on running elections, and the federal government should ensure they receive the necessary resources and information.
  • The United States must create effective deterrence. The United States should communicate to adversaries that it will view an attack on its election infrastructure as a hostile act and respond accordingly. The U.S. government should not limit its response to cyber activity; rather, it should create a menu of potential responses that will send a clear message and create significant costs for the perpetrator.

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WASHINGTON — Following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, led a group of Senators asking for votes on several pieces of legislation to improve election security and protect our democracy ahead of 2020. All of the requests were blocked by Senate Republicans, who, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House, have resisted legislative efforts to secure our elections against foreign interference in future elections.

“Earlier today, Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified that the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our elections are, quote, ‘among the most serious challenges to our democracy.’ A challenge, he says, that ‘deserves the attention of every American.’ Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections, if we fail to act,” Sen. Warner said on the Senate floor in making the request. “When asked if he thought that Russia would attack our democracy again in 2020, Mr. Mueller said ‘they are doing it as we sit here.’ Think about that for a moment. The special prosecutor spent two and a half years looking into Russian intervention in our election in 2016 and says not only are they going to do it, but they are doing it as we sit here.”

Warner added, “Now, if this is was just coming from the special prosecutor, some folks might be willing to dismiss it, but this is exact the same message we heard earlier this week from FBI Director Wray. It’s a message that all of us have heard – and I particularly on the Intelligence Committee have heard repeatedly – from Director of National Intelligence Coats, and we have heard this as well from other leaders of law enforcement and our intelligence community. Again, I point out leaders all who were appointed by this president, who have sounded the alarm about the ongoing Russian threat to our elections. Unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we have uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on standalone legislation to protect our elections.”

“I am not looking to relitigate the 2016 election or for that matter, to second-guess the special counsel’s findings. This is more a question of how we defend our democracy on a going-forward basis,” Warner noted, before asking for unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass his legislation that would require presidential campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election, which was rejected by a Republican Senator acting on behalf of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

This is the second time Republicans have rejected Sen. Warner’s attempt to pass the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act. After Sen. Warner made a previous attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent last month, President Donald Trump thanked Senate Republicans for blocking the measure via Twitter, instead launching an attack on Sen. Warner for raising the issue in the first place.

Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:

Mr. President, in a moment I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass legislation I’ve introduced to help protect our democracy from foreign interference.

Earlier today, Special Counsel Mueller testified that the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our elections are “among the most serious challenges to our democracy” — a challenge he says “deserves the attention of every American.” 

Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, if we fail to act.

When asked if he thought Russia would attack our democracy again in 2020, Mr. Mueller said, “they are doing it as we sit here.”

This echoes what we’ve heard from Director Wray, DNI Coats, and others who are sounding the alarm about the ongoing Russian threat to our elections. 

Unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a vote on standalone legislation to protect our elections.

Mr. President, I am not here to re-litigate the 2016 election or second-guess the Special Counsel’s findings. This is a question of how we defend our democracy on a going-forward basis.

Just over a month ago, the President of the United States sat in the oval office and effectively gave Russia the green light to interfere in future elections. Since then, my Republican colleagues have done nothing to prevent future attempts at undermining our democracy.

Let me be clear. If a foreign adversary tries to offer assistance to your campaign, you have a moral obligation to call the FBI.

Mr. Mueller, the former FBI Director and arguably the straightest arrow in public service, said as much this afternoon. 

So if the President, or his son-in-law, or other members of his campaign can't be trusted to do the right thing and report their foreign contacts, then we need to make it a legal requirement. That’s what the FIRE Act is all about.

The FIRE Act is a simple, narrowly targeted bill. All it does is make sure attempts to interfere in future presidential elections are promptly reported to the FBI and FEC.

The FIRE Act is not about prohibiting innocent contacts or the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Contrary to some of the mistaken rhetoric we’ve heard, it does not require reporting of contacts with foreign journalists, or DREAMers, or official meetings with foreign governments.

It is simply about preserving Americans’ trust in the democratic process.

If a candidate is receiving or welcoming help from the Kremlin, I think the American people should have a right to know that before they head to the polls.

And in a world where campaigns are a target for foreign espionage, I think our law enforcement and counter-intelligence professionals should have the tools they need to protect the integrity of our presidential elections.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; it is an issue of America’s national security. 

And I hope the Senate can come together at this moment to send a clear message that we will defend our Democracy, even if this President won’t.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation today to expand the scope of the prohibition on political activity by foreign nationals. The Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars (PAID AD) Act would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to prevent foreign nationals from purchasing broadcast, cable, satellite, or digital communications naming a candidate for office at any point in time, and prevents foreign governments and foreign lobbyists from buying issue ads.

“Our intelligence community has been clear—foreign powers continue to interfere in our elections and they’ll keep doing so unless we stop them,” Klobuchar said. “Strengthening our campaign finance laws to prohibit paid political advertisements by foreign nationals and foreign governments is necessary to ensure American elections are free and fair.”

“Russia’s massive and unprecedented interference in our last presidential election revealed a number of vulnerabilities in our election system,” Warner said. “And now that the Kremlin’s playbook is out in the open, we can expect more of the same in 2020, from Russia or elsewhere. We need to get serious about protecting our elections from foreign interference. This bill is just one commonsense measure we should adopt to strengthen our democracy against foreign intervention.”

A combination of statutes and Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules define the campaign and electoral activities in which participation by a foreign national is prohibited. Currently, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits a foreign national from contributing directly to campaigns, making independent expenditures, or buying electioneering communications. However, the definition of electioneering communication is narrow and creates a loophole by which foreign nationals may lawfully exert influence in the American electoral system.

The PAID AD Act would make it illegal for foreign nationals to directly or indirectly make an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication at any time. The legislation would also prevent foreign governments from purchasing issue ads during an election year. Under the proposed legislation, FECA’s specified time horizons for “electioneering communication” are also removed for foreign nationals.

Representatives Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced bipartisan companion legislation as an amendment to H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has introduced an amendment to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require presidential campaigns to report foreign interference in U.S. elections. The amendment introduction follows Sen. Warner’s attempt last week to pass the legislation by unanimous consent, which was blocked by Senate Republicans.

“Protecting our democracy is a national security issue,” said Sen. Warner. “President Trump’s own FBI Director and Director of National Intelligence have warned that the Russians – and others – will be back in 2020. Then last week, President Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, rolled out the welcome mat for Russia, China or any of our other adversaries to interfere in the 2020 election. So let’s be extra-clear: if a foreign country contacts you to interfere in a U.S. election, you don’t say ‘thank you’ – you call the FBI.”

Sen. Warner originally introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act last month. The proposed NDAA amendment, based on the FIRE Act, would require presidential campaigns to disclose attempts at foreign elections interference to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  

This amendment requires presidential campaigns to report only contacts with foreign nationals offering explicit assistance that is already forbidden under existing law, or offers to collaborate or coordinate with a foreign government or agent thereof. Routine contacts with foreign nationals, including meetings on official government business, personal conversations, contact with journalists, or contact with non-citizens expressing political views, including conversations with DREAMers, would continue to be exempt from any reporting requirements.  

The amendment has been co-sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, took to the Senate floor today to request immediate passage of a modified version of his Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act that would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election. Immediately after Sen. Warner requested unanimous consent, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) objected and thereby blocked the immediate passage of this essential legislation.

Sen. Warner’s request comes on the heels of alarming comments by President Trump, who said on Wednesday that he would not alert the FBI if a foreign government tried to offer damaging information on his 2020 election opponents.

“President Trump's own FBI director and his Director of National Intelligence have said that Russia, or others, will likely be back in 2020 because their tactics in 2016 were both cheap and effective. We're now 17 months before the 2020 elections and personally, we are not prepared,” Sen. Warner said on the floor. “One of my colleagues on the other side said they don't want to re-litigate 2016. There will be other times and places to further litigate whatever happened in 2016. In terms of today, I don't want to either. I just want to make sure that we are safe from foreign intervention in 2020.”

He continued, “The mantra at our airports that the TSA and Homeland Security always try to promote is, ‘if you see something, say something.’ This is not an undue burden on our traveling public, and because of that involvement, I think airports are safer. Shouldn't we have the same de minimis standard to protect the integrity of our election system? If you see something, say something. All my legislation is requiring is if there is indications that agents of foreign governments are trying to intervene in our elections, tell law enforcement, tell the FBI.”

Sen. Warner also stressed that his legislation would not interfere with any official government activities, and urged his colleagues to work together to pass bipartisan election security legislation and to put guardrails on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent them from being used by bad actors for the widespread dissemination of misinformation.

 

Below are Sen. Warner’s floor remarks as originally prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, in a moment I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass by bill, the FIRE Act, S.1562, as amended. But before I do that, I want to address the President’s recent comments regarding foreign election interference.

We all take an oath when we get sworn into these jobs to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic. Our own political ambitions, our partisan affiliations — that all should take a back seat to defending our democracy.

Unfortunately, this President doesn’t see it that way. His recent comments that he would once again welcome dirt on an opponent from a foreign government fly in the face of that oath.

Let me be clear. If a foreign adversary attempts to offer assistance to your campaign, you have a moral obligation to call the FBI.

And if the President, or his son-in-law, or other members of his campaign can't be trusted to do the right thing and report their foreign contacts, then we need to make it a legal requirement. That’s what this amendment is all about.

Mr. President, I am not here to re-litigate the 2016 election or second-guess the Special Counsel’s findings. This is a question of how we defend our democracy on a going-forward basis.

But I do want to recall the facts of what we learned through the Mueller investigation, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan investigation.

After two years of investigating, we now know that the Trump Campaign had a series of inappropriate and unreported contacts with the Russian government and its proxies, who were part of the Kremlin’s election interference efforts.

This should have come to light far sooner, but the Trump Campaign intentionally hid these contacts from the American people and law enforcement.

Another thing we learned through the investigation is that when then-candidate Trump made his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” plea — on that very same day, Russian operatives began sending illegal phishing emails to members of his opponent’s campaign.

Mr. Trump’s comments this week are not trivial. These are the words of the President of the United States, spoken in the Oval Office. That still means something to the world.

And frankly, what it means here is that this President is once again giving Russia and other bad actors the greenlight to interfere in the 2020 elections.

This sends a message to the American people and foreign governments that this conduct is acceptable. Not only is this morally wrong, it also undermines the crucial counterintelligence work of our federal law enforcement agencies.

Recently, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that such attempts to offer assistance or “dirt” would be “something that the FBI would want to know about.”

He’s right. Because, the truth is, when a foreign adversary like Russia is peddling dirt on an American candidate, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re trying to undermine our democracy, and the FBI is our first line of defense against that threat.

Mr. President, that is what this amendment is about — safeguarding our democracy from those who wish us harm. I ask my colleagues to take a step back, take off our Republican and Democratic hats for a minute, and support this amendment.

My bill, the FIRE Act — creates a first-of-its-kind requirement to make sure that foreign contacts during a presidential election are promptly reported to the FBI and FEC.

It would serve a vital intelligence need and make sure that all individuals involved in a presidential campaign understand both the existing law on foreign contributions and their affirmative obligation to report suspicious foreign contacts.  

The FIRE Act is not about prohibiting innocent contacts or the exercise of First Amendment rights. It is about restoring Americans’ trust in the democratic process. 

If a candidate is receiving or welcoming help from the Kremlin, I think the American people should have a right to know that before they head to the polls.

And in a world where campaigns are a target for foreign espionage, I think our law enforcement and counter-intelligence professionals should have the tools they need to protect the integrity of our presidential elections.

The Senate must take a stand against foreign attacks on the democratic process.  This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; it is an issue of America’s national security.

And I hope the Senate can come together at this moment to send a clear message that we will defend our Democracy, even if this President won’t.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the statement below, following the press conference held by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who announced his resignation and spoke about the findings of the Mueller Report:

 “First, I want to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his patriotism and dedication to this two-year investigation. I am grateful the American people have heard from him directly regarding his findings. Still, this press conference leaves us with unanswered questions. The underlying evidence supporting the Special Counsel’s conclusions must be made available to Congress immediately.

 “What is clear is that Russia deployed a sophisticated cyber campaign in order to interfere in our democratic process and tip the scales in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump. This is the same conclusion that the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee reached. As the Special Counsel made clear today, it’s up to Congress to uphold the rule of law, and ensure this never happens again. Going forward, we must take steps to protect our democracy by passing legislation that enhances election security, increases social media transparency, and requires campaign officials to report any contact with foreign nationals attempting to coordinate with a campaign.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:

 “The President has granted sweeping declassification powers to an Attorney General who has already shown that he has no problem selectively releasing information in order to mislead the American people. People risk their lives to gather the intelligence material that President Trump and Attorney General Barr are so eager to politicize. Selectively declassifying sources and methods in order to serve a political agenda will make it harder for the intelligence community to do their jobs protecting this country from those who wish to do us harm.”   

 

WASHINGTON – After Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified at least 140 contacts between Trump associates and foreign nationals linked to Russia, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).   

 “Most Americans already know that if a foreign adversary reaches out about interfering in our elections, you should report that contact. But after Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified at least 140 contacts between Trump associates and Russian nationals or WikiLeaks, it’s clear that some Americans haven’t taken that responsibility seriously – in fact, the Trump campaign welcomed the help, and sought to hide that from the American people. This bill would protect the integrity of our democracy by requiring future campaigns to report attempts by foreign nationals to coordinate or collaborate during a political campaign, and by putting campaigns on notice about their obligations,” said Sen. Warner.

 The FIRE Act would require all campaign officials to report, within one week, any contacts with foreign nationals attempting to make campaign donations or otherwise coordinate with the campaign through the proffer of information or services. Campaigns would be required to implement a compliance system to monitor reportable foreign contacts with campaign representatives and to train all onboarding employees and other associates on their legal obligations. The candidate him or herself must certify that this compliance system is in place. The campaign would also be responsible for reporting applicable foreign contacts to the FEC, which would notify the FBI, and preserving relevant records.

 For full bill text, please click here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and former telecommunications executive, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), reintroduced bicameral legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act will safeguard the integrity of our democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and 24 other bipartisan cosponsors.

“In 2016, Russia waged widespread disinformation campaigns that exploited social media in an effort to attack our democracy and divide the American public. As we continue to grow increasingly dependent on a handful of very large platforms, there is no doubt in my mind that foreign adversaries will continue to follow in Russia’s footsteps, exploiting the scale, amplification, and lack of transparency of these platforms in order to undermine the strength of the United States and advance their own anti-American agendas,” Sen. Warner said. “Right now, our country needs strong defenses that help ward off shady online attacks by demanding increased transparency, which is why I’m proud to introduce the Honest Ads Act. By requiring large digital platforms to meet the same disclosure standards as broadcast, cable, and satellite ads, this legislation can help prevent foreign actors from manipulating the American public and interfering in our free and fair elections through the use of inauthentic and divisive paid ads.”

“Foreign adversaries interfered in the 2016 election and are continuing to use information warfare to try to influence our government and divide Americans. We must act now to protect our democracy and prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “The goal of the Honest Ads Act is simple: to ensure that voters know who is paying to influence our political system. The bill would put in place the same rules of the road for social media platforms that currently apply to political ads sold on TV, radio, and in print regarding disclaimers and disclosures so that Americans know who is behind the ads they see online. I also want to commend Senator Graham for taking up the mantle of bipartisanship from our late friend, Senator John McCain. Protecting our elections isn’t about politics—it’s about national security and the future of our democracy. I look forward to working with him and Senator Warner to get the Honest Ads Act passed.”

“Hardening our electoral infrastructure will require a comprehensive approach and it can’t be done with a single piece of legislation,” Sen. Graham said.  “I am cosponsoring this legislation because it’s clear we have to start somewhere. I am pleased to work with Senators Klobuchar and Warner to address the gaps that currently exist, particularly with regards to social media. Online platforms have made some progress but there is more to be done. Foreign interference in U.S. elections – whether Russia in the 2016 presidential election or another rogue actor in the future – poses a direct threat to our democracy. I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bolster our defenses and defend the integrity of our electoral system.”

Prior to the 2016 presidential election, Russia attempted to influence the American electorate by using fake accounts to buy and place political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Without greater transparency and disclosure requirements, foreign adversaries and bad actors copying their playbook can continue exploiting the opacity of large social media platforms.

The Honest Ads Act would improve disclosure requirements for online political advertisements by:

  • Amending the definition of ‘electioneering communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to include paid internet and digital advertisements.
  • Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. This file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

The Honest Ads Act has the support of the Campaign Legal Center, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Issue One, the Sunlight Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the German Marshall Fund's Digital Innovation Democracy Initiative, as well as Facebook, and Twitter.

The full text of the Honest Ads Act is available here

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Washington, D.C. – Today, top House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr rejecting his limited offer to view a less-redacted version of Special Counsel Mueller’s report. The proposal would only allow twelve Members of Congress to view a less-redacted version of the report in person and would not permit them to discuss it with other Members of Congress who all have top security clearances.

In their letter, the Members wrote, “While the current proposal is not workable, we are open to discussing a reasonable accommodation with the Department that would protect law enforcement sensitive information while allowing Congress to fulfill its constitutional duties.”

The letter is signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA). 

A full copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

April 19, 2019

 

The Honorable William P. Barr

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

 

Dear Attorney General Barr:

 

We write in response to your proposal regarding restricted access to a less redacted version of Special Counsel Mueller’s report.  Unfortunately, your proposed accommodation—which among other things would prohibit discussion of the full report, even with other Committee Members—is not acceptable. 

 

In order for Congress to fulfill its functions as intended by the Constitution, it must operate as a coequal and coordinate branch of government.  Given the comprehensive factual findings presented by the Special Counsel’s Report, some of which will only be fully understood with access to the redacted material, we cannot agree to the conditions you are placing on our access to the full report.  Nor can we agree to an arrangement that does not include a mechanism for ensuring access to grand jury material.    

 

As the Special Counsel stated, “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”  The Department now has a duty to submit the full report and underlying evidence to Congress so that it can fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.  This includes considering whether legislation is needed in light of the findings contained in Special Counsel Mueller’s report and the Attorney General’s determination that no prosecution is warranted despite those facts.

 

While the current proposal is not workable, we are open to discussing a reasonable accommodation with the Department that would protect law enforcement sensitive information while allowing Congress to fulfill its constitutional duties.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

__________________________________

Nancy Pelosi

Speaker

U.S. House of Representatives

_________________________________

Chuck Schumer

Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate

__________________________________

Jerrold Nadler

Chairman

House Committee on the Judiciary

__________________________________

Adam Schiff

Chairman

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

__________________________________

Dianne Feinstein

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

__________________________________

Mark Warner

Ranking Member

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

 


 

cc:        Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader, House of Representatives

Honorable Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader, Senate

Honorable Doug Collins, Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary 

            Honorable Lindsey Graham, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Honorable Devin Nunes, Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

            Honorable Richard Burr, Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement regarding the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report: 

“We have received the redacted version of the Special Counsel’s report, and I am carefully reviewing its contents and findings.

“Even a preliminary review of the material makes it clear that the Attorney General fundamentally mischaracterized the Special Counsel’s findings in his pre-emptive press conference this morning. In the days to come, it is essential that Congress hear directly from the Special Counsel regarding his investigation. The Senate Intelligence Committee continues its own investigation, and I expect to receive a full briefing, an unredacted report, and all the materials underlying the Special Counsel’s findings.”

 

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Washington, D.C. – Today, top House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr following his testimony before the House and Senate appropriations committees reasserting their expectation for the full, unredacted Mueller report, along with the underlying evidence, to be provided to Congress.  The letter, signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), also urges the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work with them to find an accommodation on providing the full report from the Special Counsel, with the underlying materials, to the relevant committees.     

A full copy of the letter can be found here and below:

April 11, 2019

The Honorable William P. Barr
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Barr:

We have received your recent letters regarding the Special Counsel’s report.  We have also reviewed your testimony before the House and Senate appropriations committees on April 9 and 10.  We write to you now, in advance of your expected release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, to restate two important points.

First, as a matter of law, Congress is entitled to the full report—without redactions—as well as the underlying evidence.  We require that information in order to discharge our constitutional obligations:  to develop and pass legislation and to conduct thorough oversight of the Executive Branch.  These responsibilities are most acute where they involve the alleged misconduct of the President of the United States.  Indeed, because you have told us on several occasions that you will not indict the President for obstruction of justice and related crimes, it now falls to Congress to examine the President’s conduct and, if necessary, to hold him accountable.

Second, the Department of Justice has an obligation to work with the relevant committees of the House and Senate to reach an accommodation on the full report and the underlying materials.  Since your March 22 letter announcing the end of the Mueller investigation, our senior Members have written to you on numerous occasions.  We have asked reasonable questions and raised legitimate concerns about your handling of this report.  So far, we have received no direct response, and you have made no effort to work with us to accommodate our concerns.  This work should not wait until after you have provided a redacted report.  It should start now.

You have outlined four kinds of information that you plan to redact from this report: grand jury information, classified information, information that may impede an ongoing investigation, and information that may affect the privacy and reputational interests of third parties.  We acknowledge that there may be legitimate reasons for withholding some of this information from public view.

As recent precedent makes clear, however, the Department of Justice has no legitimate reason for withholding these materials from Congress.  In every other instance where a federal grand jury was used to probe the alleged misconduct of a sitting president—namely, in the Watergate and Starr investigations—the Department of Justice worked with the relevant federal court to release the grand jury information to the House Judiciary Committee.  That has not happened in this instance, despite numerous direct requests, nor have you provided us with any legitimate reason for failing to follow the Department’s precedent. 

With regard to the other areas of possible redaction noted in your March 29 letter, we note that the Department of Justice and the FBI provided nearly one million pages of material to the committees of jurisdiction related to a long list of largely discredited conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and about the origins of the Special Counsel’s investigation—while that probe was ongoing.  These documents included highly classified information, information and investigative records related directly to ongoing criminal and counterintelligence investigations, and reams of information that directly impacted the “privacy and reputational interests of third parties.”  The Department also made dozens of line personnel available for transcribed interviews.  We expect that you will be just as forthcoming with us now and, accordance with those precedents, promptly produce each of these categories of information to Congress, as requested.

Finally, we would be remiss not to express profound concern about your comments before the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding your apparent review of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.  Your testimony raises questions about your independence, appears to perpetuate a partisan narrative designed to undermine the work of the Special Counsel, and serves to legitimize President Trump’s dangerous attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI. 

We renew our request to work together prior to any release to ensure that Congress receives the full report and all of the underlying evidence.  Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

            Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, today in the United Kingdom:

“Julian Assange has long professed high ideals and moral superiority. Unfortunately, whatever his intentions when he started WikiLeaks, what he’s really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security. It is my hope that the British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves.

“I would like to thank President Moreno and the Ecuadoran government for taking the long-overdue step of withdrawing sanctuary for Mr. Assange so that he can finally face justice for his actions.”

 

###

WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, requested that the Senate immediately take up and pass a resolution calling for the public release of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. However, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the unanimous consent request and blocked the immediate passage of the resolution, which previously passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 420 – 0.

“Simply put, a summary is not going to cut it,” Sen. Warner said on the floor. “This is an extraordinarily extensive investigation that yielded a rich collection of facts about Russia’s attack on our democracy. The American people deserve to see the results so they can judge the facts for themselves.”

Sen. Warner highlighted that the Attorney General’s four-page summary of the Special Counsel’s report only focused on the criminal portion of the Mueller probe, and barely mentioned the Special Counsel’s counter-intelligence investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials and intermediaries.

He continued, “Our committee has made multiple criminal referrals to the Special Prosecutor based on what we learned in witnesses’ efforts to lie to us and obstruct our investigation. This is what a counter-intelligence investigation is all about. We need to fully understand what the Russians were trying to do. And we need to be able to warn future campaigns and candidates about the lengths and new tools hostile governments will go to undermine our democracy… Let’s make sure the full Mueller report is released to Congress — including the underlying documents and intelligence. And then let’s make sure that the American people see as much of the report as possible, and as soon as possible. And let’s do it in that bipartisan way that protect sources and methods.”

Sen. Warner also emphasized that the resolution, H. Con. Res. 24, Expressing the Sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress, ensures that the Special Counsel’s report is released in accordance with the law, without publicly revealing sources, methods, or grand jury information.

 

Below is a transcript of Sen. Warner’s full floor remarks:

Sen. Warner: Two weeks ago, after almost two years, Special Counsel Mueller filed his report with the Attorney General. The Attorney General sent us a short letter summarizing the major findings of the report.

Simply put, a summary is not going to cut it. The Attorney General’s own letter discusses the vast extent of the Special Counsel’s investigation, mentioning over 500 witness interviews, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 230 orders for communications records, and almost 50 orders for pen registers, and actually 13 requests to foreign governments. 

This is an extraordinarily extensive investigation that yielded a rich collection of facts about Russia’s attack on our democracy. The American people deserve to see the results so they can judge the facts for themselves.

We know from court filings, news reports, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own investigations that the Russians attempted to influence the Trump campaign in many ways. At least 17 individuals in the Trump orbit had over 100 publicly released contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries. And yet, with all those 100 contacts during the midst of a campaign, somehow not one of those individuals — even those contacted with explicit offers of assistance from a hostile government — called the FBI to report those offers.

And yet, the Attorney General’s four-page summary of this sprawling investigation, a summary that according to press reports may not even accurately reflect the Mueller report, focuses almost exclusively on the criminal portion of the Mueller probe — with barely any mention of the Special Counsel’s counter-intelligence investigation into these contacts.

The Senate Intelligence Committee — the only bipartisan counter-intelligence investigation still standing — has documented extensive efforts by Russians to reach out to those around then-candidate Trump.

A few examples we have documented and have been in the public domain: Candidate Trump’s efforts to negotiate a business deal to build what was going to be called the largest building in all of Russia, negotiating on that deal throughout the whole primary process and even potentially, at least according to his attorney Mr. Giuliani, maybe negotiated all the way through the election. Data that may, in itself, not have violated laws, but I frankly think that if I were a Republican primary voter, I would have liked to have known that my potential presidential candidate was still trying to do a deal with Vladimir Putin’s government.

We also in our investigation have exposed ongoing communications between the President’s campaign chairman, Mr. Manafort, and Konstantin Kilimnik, who has ties with both Russian intelligence and the oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Our committee has made multiple criminal referrals to the Special Prosecutor based on what we learned in witnesses’ efforts to lie to us and obstruct our investigation.

This is what a counter-intelligence investigation is all about. We need to fully understand what the Russians were trying to do. And we need to be able to warn future campaigns and candidates about the lengths and new tools hostile governments will go to undermine our democracy.

Now, I believe that we can’t make that full guidance to future campaigns without a full release of this report.

Now some observers have said that the report cannot be released without jeopardizing sources and methods. Let me be clear: as Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, no one is more sensitive to those concerns than I am. But the resolution that we have specifically states that the report should be released to the public in accordance with the law. Clearly, sources and methods would not be released under this standard. Nor would grand jury information.

What we are talking about here is basic transparency. Let’s make sure the full Mueller report is released to Congress — including the underlying documents and intelligence. And then let’s make sure that the American people see as much of the report as possible, and as soon as possible. And let’s do it in that bipartisan way that protect sources and methods.

Therefore, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that as if in legislative session, the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of H Con RES. 24, Expressing the Sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress, which is at the desk. Further, that the concurrent resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. 

Presiding Officer: Is there objection?

[Sen. Rand Paul objects]

Presiding Officer: Does the Senator from Virginia wish to modify his request?

Sen. Warner: Reserving the right to object, I would simply point out to my colleague from Kentucky that the Intelligence Community in their January 2017 report reached a unanimous conclusion. That conclusion was that Russia massively interfered in our elections. They did it in forms of hacking into personal information, and releasing it subjectively, they did it in terms of at least touching the electoral systems in 21 of our states’ election systems in ways that frankly found a great deal of vulnerabilities, and they did it in ways that manipulated social media, that quite honestly caught our Intelligence Community and social media companies off guard.

Our Intelligence Committee spent a year reviewing the conclusions of the Intelligence Community and in January of 17 unanimously agreed that the Intelligence Community’s findings were correct, the Russians interfered, they did it on behalf of one candidate, Mr. Trump, against another candidate, Mrs. Clinton, and for those reasons I respectfully object to my colleague from Kentucky.

Presiding Officer: Is there objection to the original request?

[Sen. Rand Paul objects]

Presiding Officer: Objection is heard.

Sen. Warner: Mr. President, I’ll simply close out. I hope we can move past this, the President himself has called for the release of the report, the House in a rare stroke of unanimity, voted 420 – 0. I think many in this body would like to move beyond this issue and the only way we are going to be able to move beyond this is to get this report released, get it out to the American public, let those of us who are charged with the Intelligence Community responsibilities see all of the report including the underlying documents. I hope we can get to that point.

Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.

###

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III delivered his report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to U.S. Attorney General William Barr:

"Congress and the American people deserve to judge the facts for themselves. The Special Counsel's report must be provided to Congress immediately, and the Attorney General should swiftly prepare a declassified version of the report for the public. Nothing short of that will suffice.

"It is also critical that all documents related to the Special Counsel's investigation be preserved and made available to the appropriate Congressional committees.

"Any attempt by the Trump Administration to cover up the results of this investigation into Russia's attack on our Democracy would be unacceptable."

 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, requested ongoing briefings from the Trump Administration regarding the deal it reached to remove sanctions on several companies owned by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sen. Warner wrote, “I write today to express my concern that the agreement the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) reached with Oleg Deripaska does not remove Deripaska’s ability to control EN+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo, and I ask that you timely provide the Senate Intelligence Committee with the same information OFAC requests or receives under the agreement and the results of any audits performed at OFAC’s request under the agreement so that Congress can continue its ongoing oversight of the sanctions imposed on Deripaska and his companies.” 

On Sunday, the Trump Administration formally lifted sanctions on the three firms linked to Deripaska, including a company that is the world’s second-largest aluminum producer.

Added Sen. Warner, “I am deeply concerned by the reports that there were details of the agreement not disclosed in your December 19, 2018 letter to Majority Leader McConnell regarding the agreement with Deripaska. The additional information strengthens my conviction that Deripaska will continue to exert control over EN+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo. Based on those reports and the letter, I understand that Deripaska’s equity stake in EN+ will decrease to 44.95 percent.  But when combined with the holdings of the family and close associates of Deripaska—including his personal foundation, his ex-wife, her father, and a firm with links to her family—means that Mr. Deripaska will continue to be closely associated with nearly 57 percent of the equity of EN+ after the restructurings contemplated by the agreement.” 

Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 57-42 in favor of a resolution that would stop the lifting of sanctions – short of the 60 votes needed to move the resolution forward. The House of Representatives approved the resolution 362-53, with a majority of members from both parties voting in favor of retaining the sanctions.

“Bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate signaled their concern with this agreement. These recent reports strengthen my determination that the agreement Treasury has struck with Deripaska needs to be overseen strictly not only by OFAC but also by Congress,” Sen. Warner added. “Your letter describes the ongoing auditing, certification and reporting and other information rights that OFAC will receive with respect to these companies under the agreement. I ask that you provide the Senate Intelligence Committee with the same information OFAC requests or receives regarding the companies and the results of any audits performed at OFAC’s request under the agreement so that Congress can continue its ongoing oversight of the sanctions imposed on Deripaska and his companies.” 

The full text of the letter appears below. A copy of the letter is available here.

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

 

I write today to express my concern that the agreement the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) reached with Oleg Deripaska does not remove Deripaska’s ability to control EN+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo, and I ask that you timely provide the Senate Intelligence Committee with the same information OFAC requests or receives under the agreement and the results of any audits performed at OFAC’s request under the agreement so that Congress can continue its ongoing oversight of the sanctions imposed on Deripaska and his companies.

I am deeply concerned by the reports that there were details of the agreement not disclosed in your December 19, 2018 letter to Majority Leader McConnell regarding the agreement with Deripaska.  The additional information strengthens my conviction that Deripaska will continue to exert control over EN+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo.  Based on those reports and the letter, I understand that Deripaska’s equity stake in EN+ will decrease to 44.95 percent.  But when combined with the holdings of the family and close associates of Deripaska—including his personal foundation, his ex-wife, her father, and a firm with links to her family—means that Mr. Deripaska will continue to be closely associated with nearly 57 percent of the equity of EN+ after the restructurings contemplated by the agreement.  You stated in your letter that Mr. Deripaska himself will not be permitted to vote more than 35 percent of his EN+ shares.  And you also implied that the votes of these individuals close to Deripaska will be assigned to an independent third party.  Nevertheless, the combination of a nearly 57 percent equity stake and the ability to vote 35 percent of EN+ shares suggests that Deripaska and his close associates will continue to have the largest stake—by far—in EN+.  

This nearly 57 percent stake alone is sufficient to determine that Deripaska will continue to have the ability to control EN+, Rusal and EuroSibEnergo.  But additional factors strengthen this conclusion.  For example, Deripaska is the founder of EN+, and was responsible for the hiring of many Rusal employees—another avenue for him to exert controlling influence.  Another sanctioned Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, will continue to have a stake through SUAL Partners Limited, which owns 22.5 percent of Rusal.  And VTB, a Russian government-owned bank that is subject to some U.S. sanctions and that has ties to Deripaska, will own about 24 percent.  Taken together, these additional facts mean that Deripaska and companies and individuals connected to him, will continue to have the ability to exert significant control over EN+, Rusal and EuroSibEnergo after the restructuring. 

Bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate signaled their concern with this agreement.  These recent reports strengthen my determination that the agreement Treasury has struck with Deripaska needs to be overseen strictly not only by OFAC but also by Congress. 

Your letter describes the ongoing auditing, certification and reporting and other information rights that OFAC will receive with respect to these companies under the agreement.  I ask that you provide the Senate Intelligence Committee with the same information OFAC requests or receives regarding the companies and the results of any audits performed at OFAC’s request under the agreement so that Congress can continue its ongoing oversight of the sanctions imposed on Deripaska and his companies. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  I would appreciate a response by February 3, 2019.

 

Sincerely,

###

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after Trump campaign confidante Roger Stone was arrested following an indictment by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller:

“Roger Stone has been indicted for covering up his engagements with Wikileaks, an organization that U.S. intelligence officials and the Senate Intelligence Committee have publicly designated as a hostile intelligence service, regarding the public release of emails stolen by the Russian government. It is clear from this indictment that those contacts happened at least with the full knowledge of, and appear to have been encouraged by, the highest levels of the Trump campaign.   

“Roger Stone and Donald Trump have known each other for nearly forty years. Mr. Stone played a key role in recruiting Paul Manafort to run the Trump campaign, and he publicly claimed on several occasions to remain in regular contact with then-candidate Trump throughout the 2016 presidential race, even after he formally departed the Trump campaign. It appears Stone also lied to Congress and tampered with witnesses in order to obstruct these investigations into the Trump campaign – yet another example of senior Trump officials concealing the truth about their Russia-related contacts during the 2016 election. 

“I expect that we will learn more about Mr. Stone’s campaign role, his communications regarding Wikileaks, and who else knew about Stone’s efforts. It remains essential that the Special Counsel be permitted to finish this work without any political interference.”

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the below statement after the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Russia and other foreign countries used social media and additional means of influence to target Americans during the 2018 midterm elections:

“As the Director of National Intelligence reminds us, the Russians did not go away after the 2016 election. Now that the Russian playbook is out in the open, we’re going to see more and more adversaries trying to take advantage of the openness of our society to sow division and attempt to manipulate Americans. Congress has to step up and enact some much-needed guardrails on social media, and companies need to work with us so that we can update our laws to better protect against attacks on our democracy.”

 

###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following statement on the Treasury Department’s announcement that it intends to delist companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska amid restructuring and corporate governance changes:

“Today’s announcement, which comes as a result of negotiated changes to the En+ corporate structure, does not change the fact that Mr. Deripaska, his employees, and his companies work at Vladimir Putin’s behest and operate as de facto representatives of the Russian government - a government that has occupied and intimidated its neighbors, sought to disrupt free and fair elections, violated nuclear treaties, and continued to wage influence campaigns to undermine western democracies, including our own.  While the Treasury Department has made great strides in reducing Mr. Deripaska’s ownership state in En+ and making beneficial changes to the corporate governance, this deal will require constant monitoring to ensure that neither Mr. Deripaska nor the Russian government violate the terms of the agreement. The addition of Victor Boyarkin, one of Mr. Deripaska’s key lieutenants, to the sanctions list will help counter some of Russia’s malign influence efforts, and is a welcome step.  We will continue monitoring these sanctions’ effects, and to hold accountable those who would violate them.”

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, third-party experts released two independent analyses of social media tactics used by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) in their attempts to influence U.S. political discourse. The reports are the first comprehensive analyses of their kind conducted by entities other than social media companies themselves, and are based in part on data provided by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

The reports, titled “The Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency” and “The IRA and Political Polarization in the United States, 2015-2017,” were authored by New Knowledge, and University of Oxford and Graphika, respectively. 

Statement from Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC):

“Increasingly, we’ve seen how social media platforms intended to foster open dialogues can be used by hostile foreign actors seeking to manipulate and subvert public opinion. This newly released data demonstrates how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode trust in our democratic institutions. Most troublingly, it shows that these activities have not stopped. As we work to address these threats, these reports are proof positive that one of the most important things we can do is increase information sharing between the social media companies who can identify disinformation campaigns and the third-party experts who can analyze them.”

Statement from Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA):

“These reports demonstrate the extent to which the Russians exploited the fault lines of our society to divide Americans in an attempt to undermine and manipulate our democracy. These attacks against our country were much more comprehensive, calculating and widespread than previously revealed. This should stand as a wake up call to us all that none of us are immune from this threat, and it is time to get serious in addressing this challenge.  That is going to require some much-needed and long-overdue guardrails when it comes to social media.  I hope these reports will spur legislative action in the Congress and provide additional clarity to the American public about Russia’s assault on our democracy.”

 

Background: 

The third-party reports released today are based in part on data provided by the Committee under its Technical Advisory Group, whose members serve to provide substantive technical and expert advice on topics of importance to ongoing Committee activity and oversight. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions presented within are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Senate Intelligence Committee or its Membership.

Separate from the Technical Advisory Group, the Committee is conducting an ongoing investigation into the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. As part of its investigation, the Committee has held several open hearings on the use of social media by foreign influence campaigns, including recent hearings with third-party experts in August 2018 and social media company officials in September 2018. The Committee will release its own report on social media with its findings as an installment of its investigation. 

 

To read New Knowledge’s report, “The Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency,” click here

To read University of Oxford and Graphika’s report, “The IRA and Political Polarization in the United States, 2015-2017,” click here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – In a letter to President Donald Trump, Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Mark Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed their serious concerns regarding the Administration’s expressed intention to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.  

“While we understand the challenges of getting Russia to reverse its violation of the INF Treaty, the Administration’s sudden decision to withdraw unilaterally is a political and geostrategic gift to Russia,” wrote the Senators. “It takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behavior and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative.  Additionally, it allows Russia to expand the production and deployment of its intermediate range missile system, the 9M729, which will further menace Europe.  

The senators’ letter comes on the heels of a scheduled NATO Foreign Ministerial later this week, which presents the Trump administration with an opportunity to consult with European allies on the INF treaty and show the United States will not take unilateral steps to the detriment of European security and stability.  

“Moving forward, before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the INF Treaty, we urge you and your administration to engage with Congress on the implications of this step for strategic stability and our relations with European and Asian allies,”concluded the Senators.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE and below.

 

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write to you to express our serious concerns regarding your announced intention to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  

 

Withdrawal from the INF Treaty, which has been a cornerstone of the European security architecture for over thirty years, was announced without any notice or consultations with the Senate, much less a path toward Senate advice and consent to the withdrawal.  This was despite multiple opportunities to explain the rationale for this decision, including a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on arms control and Russia held only a few weeks prior to your announcement.  In that hearing, senior officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense provided no indication that a decision to withdraw was even imminent, nor that U.S. forces envisioned any military operational benefit from near-term withdrawal. 

 

We are concerned about Russia’s ongoing violation of the INF Treaty, and believe Russia must return to compliance and fulfil its obligations.  While we understand the challenges of getting Russia to reverse its violation of the INF Treaty, the Administration’s sudden decision to withdraw unilaterally is a political and geostrategic gift to Russia.  It takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behavior and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative.  Additionally, it allows Russia to expand the production and deployment of its intermediate range missile system, the 9M729, which will further menace Europe.   

 

The United States withdrawal from the INF Treaty also threatens to exacerbate tension in relationships with our European allies, particularly those in NATO.    This decision, taken without coordination with foreign partners, once again shows an eagerness to take unnecessary unilateral actions over the objections of our closest allies to the serious detriment of European security and stability.  A spokesperson for EU High Representative Federica Mogherini condemned the U.S. withdrawal from INF noting “the world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability.”  Other leaders from major European allies echoed these sentiments, expressing deep concern that in withdrawing from the INF Treaty the United States was moving toward an unconstrained nuclear arms race with Russia.

 

Given the lack of strategic forethought and planning apparent in the hasty decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty, we believe it is important for the U.S. government to re-emphasize the integral nature of effective arms control as a part of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability.   In fact, our nuclear defense planning and modernization programs are contingent on the arms control architecture the United States has diligently built over many decades.  The decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty suggests that you may take a similarly dangerous approach and renege on other key arms control agreements, such as New START, which would only serve to diminish international security further and potentially necessitate vast increases in nuclear spending.  We do not believe that the degradation of our arms control agreements that have provided strategic stability for decades serves U.S. security interests or those of our allies and partners.

 

Moving forward, before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the INF Treaty, we urge you and your administration to engage with Congress on the implications of this step for strategic stability and our relations with European and Asian allies.  We also ask you to consider once again the importance of arms control within the context of U.S. and international security.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty plea on charges of lying to the Intelligence Committee and other Congressional investigators about his involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 election:

“This is yet another example of the President's closest allies lying about their contacts with Russia. With each indictment and each guilty plea, we learn more about the President’s connections to Russia in the midst of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must continue — free from political interference by the President — until the truth is out, and Congress should pass legislation immediately to make sure that happens.” 

 

###

 

Washington, DC – Top Senate and House Democrats today released a new letter to the Department of Justice’s Chief Ethics Official, Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus, in which they outline the number of serious ethical considerations that should preclude any involvement by President Trump’s handpicked Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker with the Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and that require Mr. Whitaker’s immediate recusal. In the letter, the Democrats also request that the Department of Justice’s chief ethics officer immediately notify them whether he has advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse himself from supervision of the special counsel’s investigation.

The letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, includes a number of examples of Mr. Whitaker’s many conflicts of interest and hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. These include Mr. Whitaker’s televised statement suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope, a published online opinion piece referring to the investigation as a witch hunt, and a statement in which he pre-judged the outcome of the investigation.

 

The full text of the Democrats’ letter can be found here and below: 

 

November 11, 2018

 

The Honorable Lee J. Lofthus
Assistant Attorney General for Administration 

  and Designated Agency Ethics Officer

Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Lofthus:

We are writing to you in your capacity as the Justice Department’s Designated Agency Ethics Official regarding the supervision of Special Counsel Robert Mueller by Mr. Mark Whitaker, the newly appointed Acting Attorney General.  There are serious ethical considerations that require Mr. Whitaker’s immediate recusal from any involvement with the Special Counsel investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.  

 

Mr. Whitaker has a history of hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, including televised statements suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope.  On June 9, 2017—not even a month after the Special Counsel was appointed—Mr. Whitaker stated on a radio show:  “There is no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had here.  The evidence is weak.  No reasonable prosecutor would bring a case.”[1]

 

On July 26, 2017, Mr. Whitaker stated that he “could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”[2]  Mr. Whitaker has also made reference to the Special Counsel investigation as “a mere witch hunt” and published an opinion article entitled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far” in which he argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should place limits on the scope of the investigation.[3]  He has even claimed publicly that “[t]he left is trying to sow this theory that essentially Russians interfered with the U.S. election. Which has been proven false. They did not have any impact in the election that is very clear from the Obama Administration.”[4]  This statement demonstrates plainly that Mr. Whitaker has pre-judged the outcome of the Special Counsel investigation.

In addition to his public criticism of the Special Counsel investigation, Mr. Whitaker appears to have troubling conflicts of interest that may also require his recusal from the investigation.  In 2014, Mr. Whitaker served as chairman of the campaign of Sam Clovis to be Iowa State Treasurer, and Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Clovis have reportedly remained in close contact.[5]  Mr. Clovis served as a national co-chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, and in that capacity supervised George Papadopoulos, the Trump foreign policy advisor who sought to set up a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, and who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with agents of the Russian government.[6] As you know, following advice from career Department ethics officials, Attorney General Sessions recused from the Special Counsel investigation given his senior role on the Trump campaign and a series of undisclosed contacts with Russian government officials.[7] 

The official supervising the Special Counsel investigation must be – in both fact and appearance – independent and impartial.  Regrettably, Mr. Whitaker’s statements indicate a clear bias against the investigation that would cause a reasonable person to question his impartiality.  Allowing a vocal opponent of the investigation to oversee it will severely undermine public confidence in the Justice Department’s work on this critically important matter.  Mr. Whitaker’s relationship with Mr. Clovis, who is a grand jury witness in the Special Counsel investigation, as well as Mr. Whitaker’s other entanglements, raise additional concerns about his ability to supervise the investigation independently and impartially.  

For these reasons, we request that you immediately notify us in writing regarding whether you, or any other ethics officials at the Justice Department, have advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse from supervision of the Special Counsel investigation, and the basis for that recommendation.  We also request that you provide us all ethics guidance the Department has provided to Mr. Whitaker to date.

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate

 

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Dianne Feinstein

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. Senate

 

Jerrold Nadler

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Mark R. Warner

Vice Chairman

Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. Senate

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight &

Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

 

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[1] The David Webb Show (June 9, 2017) (online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYQzupQzNOQ).

[2] CNN Tonight, CNN (July 26, 2017) (online at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1707/26/cnnt.01.html).

[3] Matthew Whitaker, Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far, CNN (Aug. 6, 2017) (online at www.cnn.com/2017/08/06/opinions/rosenstein-should-curb-mueller-whittaker-opinion/index.html).

[4] The Chosen Generation Radio Program (Mar. 3, 2017) (online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCA120DtAhI).

[5] See, e.g.Whitaker’s Friendship with Trump Aide Reignites Recusal Debate, Reuters (Nov. 8, 2018) (online at www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-whitaker/whitakers-friendship-with-trump-aide-reignites-recusal-debate-idUSKCN1ND2SN).

[6] Statement of the Offense, United States v. Papadopoulos (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017) (online at www.justice.gov/file/1007346/download).

[7] Attorney General Sessions Statement on Recusal, Department of Justice (Mar. 2, 2017) (online at www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-statement-recusal).

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

“No one is above the law and any effort to interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation would be a gross abuse of power by the President. While the President may have the authority to replace the Attorney General, this must not be the first step in an attempt to impede, obstruct or end the Mueller investigation.

“Senators from both parties have repeatedly affirmed their support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Every one of them should speak out now and deliver a clear message to the President that the Special Counsel’s investigation must continue without interference.”  

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Elena Khusyaynova, a Russian national, with interfering in the upcoming midterm elections:

“This new indictment by the Justice Department demonstrates the serious nature of these ongoing attacks on our democratic process. I commend the career officials at DOJ who continue to work tirelessly to stop foreign actors from sowing division and spreading distrust in our political system. This is why the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation has been focused on some of the dangers posed on social media platforms.

“But the threat is not over. As the criminal complaints notes, these attacks continue to this day. It is critical for Congress to step up and immediately act to employ much-needed guardrails on social media. And as I've said before, these companies need to work with Congress so we can update our laws to better protect against attacks on our democratic institutions.”

 

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