Maybe President Donald Trump is onto something with his "fake news" bit.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the leading Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that fake news is a real problem — and it comes from the Kremlin.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Warner appeared with Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), the leading Republican of the committee, to provide an update on the investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election:
"It’s been reported to me, and we’ve got to find this out, whether they were able to affect specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, Trump versus Clinton, during the waning days of the election, but instead, ‘Clinton is sick’, or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’ … fake news."
Warner has stated that the Kremlin paid more than 1,000 internet trolls to bombard swing states with fake news stories attacking Hillary Clinton.
“This is not innuendo or false allegations," he insisted in the opening of the Russia hearing. "This is not fake news— this is actually what happened to us.”
In addition, he said that hackers were ordered to steal vast amounts of information from the Democratic Party that would negatively impact Clinton, subsequently helping Trump. The committee is looking into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in any of this, with Warner drawing attention to the Trump administration's seeming unwillingness to delve further into the investigation.
"I would hope that the president is as anxious as we are to get to the bottom of what happened," Warner said at the hearing. "But I have to say editorially that the president’s recent conduct, with his wild and uncorroborated accusations about wiretapping and his inappropriate and unjustified attacks on America’s hardworking intelligence professionals, does give me grave concern."
Polls show that the majority of Americans believe Russia interfered in last year's presidential election, however, the public has no consensus on whether or not it was with the aid of Trump or those in his campaign. That's a key item on the list of things Warner, Burr, and team are investigating.
"We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire," clarified Warner at Thursday's hearing in reference to conversations about Trump's debated involvement, "but so far there is a great, great deal of smoke."
The committee has asked 20 individuals for private interviews, among them Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Burr insinuated that they had already spoken to retired Lt. Gen. and former Director of National Intelligence Michael Flynn. The rolodex of Trump personnel with suspicious connections to Russia makes it easy to imagine who might be on the list.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jussi Nukari