Top Dem on Senate Intel Committee: 'We Have No Smoking Gun' in Russia Probe

By Susan Jones | June 5, 2017 | 6:04 AM EDT

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) discusses the Russia probe on CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper on Sunday, June 4, 2017.

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked on Sunday if he's seen "any evidence of collusion" in the Trump-Russia investigation that began just days after Donald Trump was sworn in as president. The answer was no.

Jake Tapper, host of CNN's "State of the Union," asked Warner: "One of the big questions, of course, is, is there any evidence of collusion that you have seen yet? Is there?"

Warner (D-Va.) responded:

Listen, there's a lot of smoke. We have no smoking gun at this point. But there is a lot of smoke.

And, again, one of the questions we will have, not only for Director Comey on Thursday, but on Wednesday for Director of National Intelligence (Dan) Coats and NSA, National Security -- NSA Director Admiral (Michael) Rogers, I'm going to want to ask them, because there have been reports that the president also talked to both of them in terms of asking them to downplay the Russian investigation.

That would be very concerning to me.

Would it be obstruction of justice if it's true? Tapper asked Warner.

"Jake, I went to law school, but I'm not a practicing attorney," Warner said. "I will leave that for much better attorneys than I. But, clearly, it would be very, very troubling if the president of the United States is interfering in investigations that affect potentially the president and his closest associates."

Warner also used the smoke vs. fire phrase on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Host John Dickerson asked the senator if the committee will ask the Treasury Department for information about Trump's "financial ties" to Russia.

"I think, if there are inappropriate indication of financial ties, we would look at those. We have not seen those to date," Warner said. "There is a lot of smoke. We have no smoking gun, but there's a -- every week, there is more smoke that appears. And we have to sort through it."

Dickerson asked Warner, "There is still no proof of conclusion. So where, really, are we on the question of smoke vs. fire?"

Warner pointed to the "number of contacts that took place between individuals affiliated with the Trump campaign and the Russians prior to elections."

And there are still some of those contacts I don't think have been fully revealed. Then we have a series of contacts that took place between the election and the president's inaugural. Some of those were contacts that obviously didn't get disclosed originally, cost General Flynn his job, cost the attorney general -- he had to recuse himself from the investigation -- because these individuals didn't fully disclose.

We have a series of contacts as well between Mr. Kushner, that some may have taken place before the election, but obviously others after the election.

Then we have the series of events that took place since the president has been sworn in, where, clearly, Comey and potentially Rogers, Coats and maybe others have been attempted to been influenced by the president.

So, as each week goes along and more stories break, what I think the president deserves and the American public deserves is to go past reported press stories and actually hit facts.

Warner said the Senate committee will continue to "follow the facts" without distraction.

On Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will testify before the Senate intelligence committee in both open and closed-door hearings. The topic is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. And on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to publicly testify before the committee.

Warner -- asked by CNN's Tapper if President Trump might invoke executive privilege to block Comey's testimony -- said, "I would hope that he would not. I think he would be on shaky legal ground, to say the least.

"Director Comey was fired by the president. And you have the president himself making derogatory comments, in effect, at least reported to the press, calling Comey a nutjob in front of the Republicans. Totally inappropriate."

Tapper corrected Warner. "In front of the Russians, I think you mean."

"In front of the Russians," Warner agreed.

"And it would be absolutely unthinkable if the president of the United States asked the FBI director to basically back off an investigation that was directed at some of the affiliates of Mr. Trump."

Unthinkable -- but not necessarily illegal.


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