- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2017

Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday there is a “lot of smoke” in the area of possible contacts between the Russians and associates of President Trump during last year’s campaign.

“The area that we’re looking into as well … there’s a lot of smoke and we don’t know if there’s going to be anything there — is possible contacts between Russian operations and Trump campaign or Trump organizations prior to the election, and that one is obviously explosive if it bears out to be true,” Mr. Warner, Virginia Democrat, said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Mr. Trump’s team has consistently denied such charges. The Senate Intelligence committee is one of several congressional panels looking into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

“There’s nothing alleged about this hacking. It took place,” Mr. Warner said.

Mr. Warner said one factor at play last year was a Russian disinformation campaign.

“There was close to a thousand Russian hackers working out of a single factory as internet trolls placing fake news and manipulating some of the algorithms, for example, that Google used,” he said.

“A few weeks back, if you typed in ‘ODNI’ and ‘hacking,’ director of national intelligence and hacking, you’d have five or six Russian sites come up, Russian propaganda sites that were number one,” Mr. Warner said.

“You clearly have, and I think every member of Congress received the briefing knows that Russians hacked into the DNC, hacked into [Clinton campaign chairman] John Podesta’s emails,” he said.

“The fact that John Podesta’s first email was released publicly two hours after the so-called Bush Hollywood groping tape came out was more than just coincidence,” Mr. Warner said, referring to the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which Mr. Trump was caught on a hot mic talking about forcing himself onto women.

“It was a concentrated effort by the Russians to favor Trump against Clinton,” Mr. Warner said.

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