In this Feb. 5, 2019 photo, President Donald Trump gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is declaring exoneration prematurely in the Russia investigation.
He's tweeting that Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, has "announced" the panel found no collusion or conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. That's taking it too far. Burr did say in a published interview that he had found no evidence so far of collusion after two years of investigation, but the probe is continuing. Burr also indicated the committee's final report may not even reach a conclusion on the question, leaving it up to the public to decide.
TRUMP: "Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA! Is anybody really surprised by this?" — tweet Sunday.
TRUMP: "The mainstream media has refused to cover the fact that the head of the VERY important Senate Intelligence Committee, after two years of intensive study and access to Intelligence that only they could get, just stated that they have found NO COLLUSION between 'Trump' & Russia." — tweet Friday.
THE FACTS: Trump is overstating it. Burr, R-N.C., did tell CBS that he could not conclude there was collusion during the 2016 election based on the available evidence after his panel interviewed more than 200 witnesses and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of documents. But Burr also allowed that some questions raised during the Russia probe could occupy the committee "for the next decade."
"If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia," he said in the interview that appeared Thursday. Burr's comment was similar to what he has frequently said over the last two years. In August, for instance, Burr told The Associated Press that there is "no factual evidence today that we've received" on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and Trump's campaign, but that he's still open on the issue.
Burr's comment last week was not an official declaration on behalf of the committee exonerating Trump of collusion, and the chairman suggested that its final report may not draw a conclusion.
"What I'm telling you is that I'm going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people," Burr told CBS. "And you'll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that's collusion."
The Senate committee's work is separate from that of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also probing Russian election interference, questions of collusion and possible obstruction of justice by the Trump campaign.