GOP report on Russia uncovers no collusion
WASHINGTON >> After a 7 yearlong investigation marred by bitter partisan divisions, Republicans announced Monday that the House Intelligence Committee has found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russians who used social media and hacked emails in an effort to influence the 2016 election.
A draft 150-page report will be shared today with Democrats, who have pressed for a more aggressive investigation than Republicans would allow, and who complained Monday that the panel’s work was incomplete.
The Republican report concludes that the Russian government’s extensive meddling in the campaign was not intended to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton. That puts the House Republicans at direct odds with the nation’s intelligence agencies, which assessed last year that the Kremlin specifically sought to undermine Clinton and assist Trump.
Guided in part by the aggressive committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the investigation largely broke down in crude partisan infighting, marking a rare breach of decorum and tradition on a panel that conducts oversight of the nation’s intelligence community to prevent government abuses.
“This is the first time you really see one party using the gavel going after the intelligence community itself for partisan purposes,” said Mieke Eoyang, a former committee staff member now at Third Way, a Washington think tank. “That is going to set back intelligence oversight for decades.”
The Republican conclusion gives Trump valuable political cover because it is the first congressional committee to support his repeated denials of any collusion with Russia. Like the president, the GOPled panel also blamed former President Barack Obama for what it calls a “lackluster” response to the Russian hacking and interference during the campaign.
The White House still faces the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, and that shows no sign of ending anytime soon. Mueller’s team already has filed criminal charges against 19 people, including four former Trump campaign aides, and several are cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Two other congressional inquiries into Russian meddling also are underway.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has generally acted with bipartisanship and is working on a report about safeguarding U.S. elections.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee has faced partisan hurdles with squabbles between Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat, and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman. Feinstein has issued her own requests for information from Trump associates and even released an interview transcript without committee approval.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee argued that their report will allow authorities to boost defenses against future outside meddling in U.S. elections, including the midterm election this November.
“We will now be moving into the next phase of this investigation,” said Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who has led the inquiry. “It’s important that we give the American people the information they need to arm themselves against Russian attempts to influence our elections.”
Democrats described the Republican conclusions as a smokescreen intended to protect the president.
“The majority has placed the interests of protecting the president over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the committee.
Schiff said the committee should investigate allegations of Russian money laundering. “If the Russians do have leverage over the president of the United States, the majority has simply decided it would rather not know,” he said.
Although completion of a draft report was announced abruptly Monday evening, Republicans had signaled for weeks that they were ready to wind down the investigation. They said the committee had conducted 73 interviews, mostly behind closed doors, and collected more than 300,000 documents.
Democrats will probably release their own report on the investigation, a reflection of the rancor that has defined the House investigation for months.