Senate Intel committee calls on Facebook to release Russian ads

Would Zuckerberg wear a suit in court

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders will update the public Wednesday on the committee's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Kremlin to help propel Trump to victory.

Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) led the announcement by saying that their inquiry has "expanded slightly" though there is no definite conclusion in sight yet.

So far, investigators have conducted more than 250 hours of interviews, produced over 4,000 transcript pages and reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents. "I think they've got some more work to do and I'm pleased to say I think they're out doing that work now".

The committee has interviewed every intelligence community official involved in drafting the report on Russian election meddling, Mr Burr said, listing off the work the committee has done.

The news conference Burr and Warner held to provide a progress report on their monthslong probe underscored their investigation is growing in scope and is not shying away from the question of collusion - which Trump has repeatedly dismissed as a "hoax".

The lawmakers said they would not release social media ads paid for by Russian agents to influence US voters, but they hoped Facebook and Twitter would.

Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice-president of policy and communications, said the advertisements appeared to focus on "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights".

"The issue of collusion is still open". Facebook surrendered the content of thousands of ads to Congress this week and it has acknowledged that some 10 million Americans may have seen them from 2015 to earlier this year. But he added that the 2016 election demonstrated "the Russian intelligence service is determined, clever and I recommend every campaign and every elected official take this seriously".

Burr said Wednesday that the panel is close to determining the assessment is accurate.

Burr, speaking during a press conference, noted that the committee had not reached a conclusion on Russia's preferences during the presidential campaign.

Burr said he did not have a timeline on when the investigation will conclude, though he said somewhat wistfully that his "aspirational goal" was still to end by the end of year.

But the signal Burr gave that his committee's investigation had not found reasons to push back on the intelligence community's conclusions, which it issued in a report in January, runs counter to some doubts that President Trump and his allies have cast that Russian Federation sought to interfere in the election.

A recent CNN report said some of the Russia-linked ads were specifically targeted at people in MI and Wisconsin, two battleground states that were critical in helping President Donald Trump win last November's election.

Russians or their operatives were buying public ads aimed at amplifying political division in the US, or using fake accounts, disguised as Americans, to openly throw fuel on hot controversies.

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