By Karoun Demirjian,
House Intelligence Committee Republicans released a redacted version of their final report from a year-long probe into Russia’s “multifaceted” influence operation, which accuses the intelligence community of “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in determining that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election to help President Trump.
The report generally absolves Trump and his associates of wrongdoing, finding “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government.” The report does, however, criticize both the Trump and Clinton campaigns for “poor judgment and ill-considered actions,” such as Trump campaign officials’ decision to meet with a Russian lawyer offering compromising information on Hillary Clinton in Trump Tower in June 2016.
It also criticizes the Obama administration for a “slow and inconsistent” response to mounting Russian threats.
House Intelligence Committee Democrats refused to endorse the report, claiming that the GOP intentionally steered the investigation away from scrutiny of the president as well as manipulating the interview schedule, refusing to issue subpoenas, and otherwise undermining the integrity of the probe, which they believe is still incomplete.
House Intelligence Committee Republicans stated that the report is based on interviews with 73 witnesses and a review of over 300,000 documents.
The House report delivers abundant new ammunition to Trump, making an extensive case that allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin are unfounded. The report devotes an entire chapter to alleged campaign links with Russia, and proceeds to knock down many of the most damaging claims against the campaign or minimize the significance of the well-established interactions.
The document reinterprets dozens of data points that have been sources of suspicion about Trump and the Kremlin. It says that there is no evidence that Trump’s pre-campaign business dealings paved the way for election help from Russia, even though Trump’s financial dealings appear to remain under investigation by the Special Counsel.
The report finds that advisers Trump brought into his campaign were either not acting on Trump’s behalf or unsuccessful in their efforts to pursue ties with Moscow, even though one of those individuals, George Papadopoulos, has admitted to lying to the FBI about his campaign outreach to the Kremlin. The report brushes aside the significance of a troubling meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower involving Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, saying that the meeting never led to the exchange of any useful information from Moscow.
It goes on to assert that apparent efforts by the campaign and Russia to set up a “back channel” after the election were, counterintuitively, evidence that there was not earlier collusion.
In contrast, the report goes after government agencies, private investigators and media outlets that pursued information on Trump’s ties to Russia. It faults the FBI and the Obama administration for failing to adequately respond to Russian campaign interference.
It disparages the infamous “dossier” compiled by a former British spy as full of “second and third-hand” information, and claims that the file was then used to justify putting Trump campaign associates under surveillance – an assertion vehemently disputed by the FBI.
The report all but accuses intelligence officials of deliberately leaking damaging information about Trump to the media before and after the election. It devotes little attention to Trump’s often inconstant explanations of events, while accusing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of providing “inconsistent testimony to the committee about his contacts with the media.
In a 98-page rebuttal to the GOP’s 250-page report, Democrats excoriated “a majority” of the GOP report’s conclusions as “misleading and unsupported by the facts and the investigative record.”
“They have engaged in a systematic effort to muddy the waters, and to deflect attention away from the President, most recklessly in their assault on the central pillars of the rule of law,” Democrats wrote in an unclassified document released separately from the GOP’s report. The GOP’s findings, Democrats charged, “have been crafted to advance a political narrative that exonerates the President, downplays Russia’s preference and support for then-candidate Trump, explains away repeated contacts by Trump associates with Russia-aligned actors, and seeks to shift suspicion towards President Trump’s political opponents and the prior administration.”
The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe took on the character of a boxing ring over the last year, as Republicans and Democrats repeatedly came to blows over whether GOP leaders were trying to end the investigation in order to paint the president in the most flattering possible light.
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