State Politics

Burr: ‘Months left to go’ in Senate’s Russia investigation

Burr: 'Our partners around the world are hungry for American leadership'

Video: U.S. Senator Richard Burr says the previous administration wanted to 'rotate' world leadership as he speaks at a foreign policy forum in Raleigh Friday. He says that wasn't a good idea.
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Video: U.S. Senator Richard Burr says the previous administration wanted to 'rotate' world leadership as he speaks at a foreign policy forum in Raleigh Friday. He says that wasn't a good idea.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr on Tuesday criticized Michael Flynn’s refusal to produce documents sought in the Senate’s investigation of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

Burr provided an update on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe during a telephone town hall Tuesday with fellow North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

Burr said Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, will likely be forced to give up the documents. “It’s hard to plead the fifth on document production,” he said. “His lawyer chose a very unique approach.”

The committee is also seeking documents from Flynn’s businesses, because Burr said the general’s travel to Russia was likely through those businesses.

Russia’s actions are “alarming, and the American people deserve a full understanding of Russia’s involvement,” Burr said. “Gen. Flynn is just one piece of a bigger puzzle.”

Asked if he’d support an independent special prosecutor, Burr said no. “What we are currently investigating is a counter-intelligence issue, and it falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the committee,” he said, adding that the Justice Department is looking into any criminal issues.

“We’re months into this investigation; we’ve still got months left to go,” Burr said. “The timeline will depend on the voluntary nature of the individuals we need documents from, that we need to interview. I look forward to this being over, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

The senator said that while Russia’s actions didn’t change the final vote tallies for last year’s election, the Russians are “aggressively, even today, monkeying with data off of voter files and political candidates.”

In other highlights from Tillis and Burr’s hourlong town hall event:

On health care: Burr says he “can’t say” if a new health-care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act will be passed this year. He noted that the current health-care law has resulted in only one insurer offering ACA plans in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

“That’s not the choice that the American people were promised,” he said. “We’re going to see a fairly quick demise as insurers look at it and say ‘I can’t offer a product.’”

On medical marijuana: Tillis says he’s co-sponsoring a bill to study the issue and potential effects of legalizing marijuana for medical uses. “I’m open to that, provided that the data says we can do it in a responsible manner,” he said.

On Trump’s budget: Burr said he’s concerned that some of the president’s proposed cuts to education, agriculture and other programs would hurt North Carolina. He said Trump’s effort to balance the federal budget within 10 years is “probably an impossible thing to do.”

“Though I don’t agree with all the proposals that the administration has come up with, it’s a good starting point,” he said.

On voter ID: Tillis – who was speaker of the N.C. House when North Carolina’s voter ID law passed – said he’s hopeful that a new requirement can be developed after the original law was struck down in court.

“I hope that we can have a responsible, nonpartisan debate about something that I think makes sense,” he said.

Video: U.S. Senator Thom Tillis said those on both the far left and far right need to come toward the center to achieve meaningful immigration reform as he speaks at a roundtable discussion on immigration at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Monday.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter