Trump Campaign Adviser Sen. Richard Burr Leading Probe Of Trump Campaign And Russia Sen. Richard Burr is running the Senate's probe into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. But he also was an adviser for Trump's campaign, which raises questions about his impartiality.
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Trump Campaign Adviser Sen. Richard Burr Leading Probe Of Trump Campaign And Russia

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Trump Campaign Adviser Sen. Richard Burr Leading Probe Of Trump Campaign And Russia

Trump Campaign Adviser Sen. Richard Burr Leading Probe Of Trump Campaign And Russia

Trump Campaign Adviser Sen. Richard Burr Leading Probe Of Trump Campaign And Russia

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/522151887/522151888" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Sen. Richard Burr is running the Senate's probe into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. But he also was an adviser for Trump's campaign, which raises questions about his impartiality.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now, let's get the latest on the various investigations into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. And let's begin with President Trump's former national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR has confirmed now that Michael Flynn has offered to be interviewed as long as he gets immunity from prosecution.

MARTIN: In a statement, Flynn's lawyer said he certainly has a story to tell but that no reasonable person would agree to be questioned without assurances against unfair prosecution.

GREENE: Now, a spokesman for House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes denied that Flynn has made any such offer.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, the investigation by the House Intelligence Committee continues to fracture. Democrats are calling for the chair, Devin Nunes, to recuse himself because of his close ties to the Trump administration. The tipping point came this week when Nunes revealed he had briefed the White House on sensitive intelligence before telling his own committee members.

GREENE: That is the House. Let's turn now to the Senate. The man leading the Senate's investigation is North Carolina Republican Richard Burr. He has promised to follow the facts wherever they lead, and that presents an unusual situation. A man who served as an adviser to President Trump's campaign is now running the probe into possible ties between that campaign and Russia. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly has more.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Senator Burr cuts a sober figure in the corridors of the Capitol. Sixty-one years old, silver-haired, he's inclined to dark suits with a carefully folded white pocket square. But behind the serious demeanor, you'll find flashes of personality. There's the great North Carolina barbecue map hanging on a wall of his Senate office, detailing where to find good hot sauce all over his home state. Or consider his vehicle of choice.

Yeah, that would be The Thing. And I'm here looking at The Thing (laughter). It is a 1974 Volkswagen convertible. It is covered in campaign bumper stickers. To call it beat up would be putting it charitably (laughter). It is parked right here, right outside Burr's Senate office. And he's known for being spotted all over Capitol Hill tooling around in The Thing. He even tweets about it. He uses the hashtag #LongLiveTheThing.

It can be hard to square the kind of guy who would drive The Thing with this man.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD BURR: I'd like to call this hearing to order.

KELLY: Burr took over the intelligence panel in 2015, succeeding Senator Dianne Feinstein. Before the Senate, he served five terms in the House and, before that, was national sales manager for a lawn equipment company.

Until recently, Burr kept a lower profile than many of his Senate colleagues. He grants few interviews. He declined our request. But his name shot onto the front pages last month when it emerged that he called reporters, at the behest of the White House, to knock down news stories about contact between Trump associates and Russia. Democrats raced to sound the alarm.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: So Senator Burr is on notice...

KELLY: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCHUMER: ...Because what he did was wrong. And this is not the way to conduct a fair, impartial investigation that goes wherever the facts lead.

KELLY: The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, announced he, too, had grave concerns about Burr doing the bidding of the White House. Now, that was February. This week, Warner and Burr have made a conspicuous show of bipartisanship, appearing side by side at a Capitol Hill press conference at which I put the question to Burr - can you say, hand over heart, that as a former Trump adviser, you can run an impartial investigation?

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BURR: Absolutely. I'll do something I've never done. I'll admit that I voted for him. We always hide who we vote for. That's part of the democratic process. But I've got a job in the United States Senate. And I take that job extremely serious. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.

KELLY: Then Senator Warner chimed in.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MARK WARNER: And let me just (unintelligible) that. I have confidence in Richard Burr that we, together with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this. And that's - if you get nothing else from today, take that statement to the bank.

KELLY: As the investigation plays out in the weeks and months to come, whether that trust will last or spin into the political bar brawl that's broken out on the House side remains to be seen. The House Intelligence Committee's Russia probe is a mess - canceled hearings, dueling press conferences and questions over whether that panel's Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, is too close to the White House to conduct a fair investigation.

Daniel Jones, former lead investigator for the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the breakdown on the House side raises the stakes for Burr's investigation.

DANIEL JONES: By having a House and a Senate investigation, if one fails or if one doesn't find this issue or that, hopefully the other committee will. You have a backup committee, if you will (laughter). Now it just looks like the House is going nowhere, so everything relies on the Senate to move forward.

KELLY: Richard Burr says he has no plans to run for re-election after this term. He calls this one of the biggest investigations he has seen in his political life. Running it is the task that may well define his career. Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLAZO'S "DISTANT GRAPHITE")

GREENE: Now, as we mentioned, President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has offered to testify to Burr's committee, as well as to the House Intelligence Committee and to the FBI, if he is given immunity. President Trump has now weighed in. He tweeted this morning that he agrees, Flynn should ask for immunity. The president described all this as a witch hunt, an excuse by the media and Democrats for a big election loss.

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