Mother Jones

INVESTIGATE LESS, SMILE MORE

Sen. Richard Burr walks the line between probing the Trump-Russia scandal and providing cover for the president.

RICHARD BURR WAS contrite. It was late February 2017, and the Washington Post had just exposed the North Carolina Republican and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee for running damage control for the Trump administration over its mounting Russia scandal. Along with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), his counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Burr had spoken to reporters at the behest of the White House to rebut reports that the Trump campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence operatives.

The combative Nunes made no apologies for his efforts to shield the new president from scrutiny. But Burr was different. He immediately moved to address the criticism. At a closed-door meeting with intelligence committee members days after the story broke, Burr acknowledged he had made a mistake. He pledged to avoid future missteps that could raise questions about the independence of his committee’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

That message quelled complaints by

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