Deb Riechmann

WASHINGTON: Pledging cooperation, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said Wednesday they would steer clear of politics in their panel’s probe of Russian interference in last year’s election. They made a point of putting themselves at arm’s length from the House investigation marked by partisanship and disputes.

Richard Burr of North Carolina, the GOP chairman of the Senate committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill he would not even answer questions about the House probe. “We’re not asking the House to play any role in our investigation. We don’t plan to play any role in their investigation,” Burr said ahead of his panel’s open hearing Thursday.

Standing alongside his committee’ ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Burr said: “Mark and I work hand in hand on this. … We’re partners to see that this is completed and that we have a product at the end of the day that we can, in bipartisanship, support.”

So far, the committee has requested 20 individuals to be interviewed. Five have been scheduled, and the remaining 15 are likely to be scheduled within the next 10 days. Additional witnesses could be interviewed.

Burr declined to identify any of them, except for Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The White House has said that Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, has volunteered to answer questions about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.

On the House side, Democrats have called for intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself because of his previous ties with Donald Trump’s team before Trump took office. The investigation includes looking at contacts the Russians may have had with Trump associates.

Ahead of Thursday’s Senate hearing, Warner pledged to keep the investigation focused on the reason it was started.

“An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process — the election of the president — and in the process decided to favor one candidate over another,” Warner said. “I can assure you, they didn’t do it because it was in the vested interest of the American people.”

Burr said the investigation’s mission is to look at all activities Russia might have undertaken to alter or influence the election and to examine contacts any campaign had with Russian government officials that could have influenced the process.