The US Senate Intelligence Committee has said it will investigate claims that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election. A recent top-level intel report backed by the CIA and FBI supported the allegations.
The probe is supported by both Democrats and Republicans after US intelligence agencies claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a secret operation to interfere in the election, aiming to boost Republican Donald Trump and damage his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's oversight responsibilities, we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States," the committee said in a statement.
A report from the Director of National Intelligence released on January 6 stated that Russians had hacked Democratic Party computers and accounts to release files embarrassing to Clinton. The document added that Russia had also been part of a campaign of media manipulation to the same end. Details of the report were, however, withheld from the public, making its claims appear weak and tenuous. But the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had both agreed earlier that there was proof to suggest thatRussia had likely intervened in US presidential election.
The investigation could lead to officials of both Barack Obama's outgoing administration and the incoming government of Donald Trump being forced to testify.
Subpoenas will reportedly be issued to senior officials from the Obama administration and the Trump administration "if necessary to compel testimony."
Trump, who will take office on January 20, has repeatedly rejected suggestions saying that Russia had helped his election victory.
"It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen," Trump said at a recent news conference.
Following all leads
A dossier compiled by a former British MI6 intelligence agent surfaced earlier in the week, also alleging closer ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government. The unproven document also alleged that Moscow had video footage of Trump engaged with Russian prostitutes in a compromising position.
The Senate Intelligence Committee probe said it would review the intelligence community's assessments and also other assessments in comprehensive manner, "including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns," the committee said, suggesting the explosive report submitted by the former British spy could also be reviewed.
North Carolina's Republican Senator Richard Burr, who will be acting as the committee's chairman, and Virginian Senator Mark Warner, the panel's top Democrat, said in a joint statement that the panel would "follow the intelligence where it leads."
"We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right," the senators added.
The majority of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation will, however, be conducted in secret in order to protect classified information, although the senators stressed that they would hold open hearings whenever possible.