GOP re­port on Rus­sia un­cov­ers no col­lu­sion

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATIONAL REPORT - By Chris Mege­rian

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.

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