Putin backed Trump, says Se­nate panel

The Southland Times - - World -

The Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has de­ter­mined that the US in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity was cor­rect in as­sess­ing that Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with the aim of help­ing then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump, con­tra­dict­ing find­ings House Repub­li­cans reached last month.

‘‘We see no rea­son to dis­pute the [in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s] con­clu­sions,’’ the com­mit­tee’s chair­man, Se­na­tor Richard Burr, R-NC, said yes­ter­day in a joint state­ment with its vice chair, Se­na­tor Mark Warner, D-Va, who added: ‘‘Our staff con­cluded that the . . . con­clu­sions were ac­cu­rate and on point. The Rus­sian ef­fort was ex­ten­sive, so­phis­ti­cated, and or­dered by Pres­i­dent Putin him­self for the pur­pose of help­ing Don­ald Trump and hurt­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton.’’

This marks the sec­ond of four in­terim find­ings the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee has said it will pub­li­cise be­fore tack­ling the more con­se­quen­tial ques­tion of whether Trump and his as­so­ciates col­luded with Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the elec­tion’s out­come, al­le­ga­tions the pres­i­dent has de­nied and sought to dis­credit.

The com­mit­tee, which ear­lier this month re­leased re­lated find­ings on elec­tion se­cu­rity, is ex­pected to pub­lish a com­pre­hen­sive fi­nal re­port this fall.

Yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment comes amid grow­ing Re­pub­li­can scru­tiny of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, whose team is also ex­am­in­ing whether Trump’s campaign co-or­di­nated with the Krem­lin and if the pres­i­dent ob­structed jus­tice in a bid to limit the probe’s scope.

The Se­nate com­mit­tee’s find­ings clash with the House GOP’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity did not fol­low its own best prac­tices in con­clud­ing the Krem­lin favoured Trump in the elec­tion. The dis­pute – and the ques­tions it now raises about which record of events is most ac­cu­rate – could com­pli­cate the Re­pub­li­can Party’s mes­sag­ing head­ing into the 2018 elec­tion sea­son.

Trump has taken um­brage at the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that the Krem­lin favoured his can­di­dacy over Clin­ton’s. The pres­i­dent cheered the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s re­port, claim­ing on Twit­ter that it vin­di­cated him by find­ing there was no ev­i­dence his campaign col­luded with Rus­sia.

Although the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has yet to weigh in on the col­lu­sion al­le­ga­tions, Burr and Warner have hinted for days that their panel’s in­terim find­ings on the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity would de­part from those reached by Repub­li­cans on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. ‘‘I’m not sure that the House was re­quired to sub­stan­ti­ate ev­ery con­clu­sion with facts,’’ Burr told re­porters last week, promis­ing the Se­nate panel would ‘‘have the facts to show for’’ its con­clu­sions.

Warner said on Tues­day that, ‘‘Ev­ery­one that we’ve ever had tes­tify still stands by the full find­ings of the ICA,’’ re­fer­ring to the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s as­sess­ment. ‘‘We’ve had all the Obama of­fi­cials, we’ve had all the Trump of­fi­cials. Ev­ery per­son,’’ he added.

Asked yes­ter­day about the dis­crep­ancy be­tween the two pan­els’ con­clu­sions, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s chair­man said: ‘‘That’s nice.’’ He de­clined to elab­o­rate.


Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee vice chair­man Mark Warner, left, and com­mit­tee chair­man Richard Burr, right, speak dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill.

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