Speed Reads


The Senate Intelligence Committee will explore Russian election disinformation, 'fake news' trolls today

The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding open hearings Thursday on Russian interference in the U.S. election through technology and disinformation, with a slate of academic and cybersecurity experts scheduled to testify, including former NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) says the committee has requested interviews with 20 individuals, five of which have been scheduled, but he named only one of the 20, President Trump's son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner.

The Senate Intelligence Committee — which presented itself Wednesday as the quieter, more responsible older sibling of the House Intelligence Committee — is in talks to interview former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who compiled the mostly unverified dossier on Trump's connections with Russian officials, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing "three sources with direct knowledge." But Steele is wary to leave London. He's reportedly worried about his safety and how he will be treated by the Trump administration. The FBI was in talks to pay Steele for information last fall, "sources familiar with the matter" told NBC News, but that fell through.

Other people who have agreed to testify include Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone, but the committee has not yet reached an agreement on when to interview them or the terms, two congressional officials tell NBC News, adding that criminal immunity for talking is not likely on the table.

On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will explore the various ways Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential election and is meddling in other elections, too. "There were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect, taking over series of computers, which is then called a botnet," ranking Democrat Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) said Wednesday. One line of inquiry is whether Russian fake news was served to voters in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he added. "We are in a whole new realm around cyber that provides opportunity for huge, huge threats to our basic democracy."