The Senate Intelligence Committee’s GOP chairman is “on notice” after helping the White House challenge news stories critical of President Donald Trump’s Russia ties, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters he was “very disappointed” in Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) acknowledgment that he called reporters to knock down allegations about multiple contacts between Trump emissaries and Russia. Burr’s conduct “certainly gives the appearance, if not the reality, of a lack of impartiality” in his committee’s bipartisan probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Schumer added.
Schumer echoed the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who warned on Saturday that he would support a broader investigation if he became convinced that the committee could not fairly scrutinize Trump-Russia connections. Burr and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) have defended their decision to help the White House parry negative coverage on Russia, but Schumer noted that two GOP senators on the intelligence committee have warned in the past 24 hours against any appearance of politicizing the investigation.
“I think it’s very important that the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee be 100 percent credible — that when we issue our report, everyone on both sides of the aisle looks at it and says, ‘this was a serious effort free from politics,'” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CBS News in his home state on Sunday.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) raised similar concerns in a Monday interview with CNN.
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa on Friday called for a special prosecutor to conduct the Trump-Russia probe, a step that no Senate Republican has taken. The intelligence committee’s bipartisan inquiry remains the preferred vehicle for Senate GOP leaders — and Democrats have yet to fully disavow it, even as many of them continue to push for an independent probe, either through the Justice Department or a select committee.
Schumer addressed Burr’s contacts with reporters at an appearance alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to slam Trump’s record ahead of his Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress. The New York Democrat predicted that the GOP push to kill Obamacare — once believed to be a certainty, given the party’s control of Congress and the White House — ultimately would fail.
“The odds are very high that we will keep” the health care law in place, Schumer told reporters. “It will not be repealed.”
Austin Wright contributed to this report.