Law­maker: Only Putin knows ’16 goal

Help­ing Trump, hurt­ing Clin­ton up to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, House in­quiry chief says

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Nicholas Fan­dos of The New York Times; by Avi Selk of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Mary Clare Jalonick, Chad Day and Dar­lene Su­perville of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

WASH­ING­TON — The Repub­li­can lead­ing the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence soft­ened his char­ac­ter­i­za­tion Tues­day of a key in­ves­tiga­tive find­ing, a day af­ter Repub­li­cans an­nounced that they had com­pleted a draft of their re­port.

Rep. Mike Con­away, R-Texas, who is lead­ing the in­quiry, had told re­porters Mon­day that the com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­cans had ex­ten­sively re­viewed a 2017 as­sess­ment by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and found only one area of dis­agree­ment: that the Rus­sians had fa­vored Don­ald Trump’s can­di­dacy.

“We dis­agree with the nar­ra­tive that they were try­ing to help Trump,” Con­away said.

Speak­ing again with re­porters Tues­day — af­ter U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, Democrats and some Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee ap­peared to dis­pute that con­clu­sion — Con­away said it was a mat­ter of in­ter­pre­ta­tion whether the Rus­sians were try­ing to hurt Hil­lary Clin­ton, Trump’s op­po­nent, or ex­plic­itly help his can­di­dacy.

“Ev­ery­body gets to make up their own mind whether they were try­ing to hurt Hil­lary or help Trump,” he said. “It’s kind of a glass half full, glass half empty.”

“Only Putin knows for sure what he wanted to do,” Con­away added of the Rus­sian pres­i­dent, Vladimir Putin.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­cluded in Jan­uary 2017 that Putin had per­son­ally “or­dered an in­flu­ence cam­paign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion” that shifted from try­ing to “den­i­grate” Clin­ton to de­vel­op­ing “a clear pref­er­ence for Pres­i­dent-elect Trump.”

Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, said Mon­day that the agen­cies would re­view the com­mit­tee’s re­port but that they stood by their work.

Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat, said Tues­day that af­ter re­view­ing the same ma­te­rial the Repub­li­cans had, “the ev­i­dence is clear and over­whelm­ing that the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity as­sess­ment was cor­rect.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who played a key role in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ap­peared to agree with that sen­ti­ment.

“It is also clear, based on the ev­i­dence, Rus­sia had dis­dain for Sec­re­tary Clin­ton and was mo­ti­vated in whole or in part by a de­sire to harm her can­di­dacy or un­der­mine her pres­i­dency had she pre­vailed,” he said.

Con­away said Tues­day that his com­mit­tee was tak­ing is­sue with the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ “an­a­lytic trade­craft,” sug­gest­ing that an­a­lysts had as­sem­bled the rel­e­vant por­tion of the as­sess­ment us­ing ma­te­rial that typ­i­cally would not meet their own stan­dards. He never dis­puted that the Rus­sians had un­der­taken mea­sures to try to dis­rupt the elec­tion.

The con­clu­sion that the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity had erred in its 2017 as­sess­ment about the Rus­sians’ in­ten­tions was one of the key Repub­li­can find­ings pre­sented by Con­away. He also said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had found no ev­i­dence of col­lu­sion be­tween Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Rus­sia to sway the 2016 elec­tion.

Repub­li­cans pre­sented the 150-page doc­u­ment to Democrats on Tues­day for re­view and plan to ini­ti­ate what could be a pro­tracted de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion process to re­lease it pub­licly.

On CNN late Mon­day, Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., who also serves on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said par­ti­san in­fight­ing had caused the com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion to lose “all cred­i­bil­ity.”

Asked why Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee were aim­ing to close their in­ves­ti­ga­tion even as spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion ap­pears to be in­ten­si­fy­ing, Rooney replied, “We’ve gone com­pletely off the rails.”

“We’re ba­si­cally a po­lit­i­cal fo­rum for peo­ple to leak in­for­ma­tion to drive the day’s news.”

He didn’t spec­ify which leaks he meant, and ac­cu­sa­tions have fallen on mem­bers of both par­ties in the com­mit­tee.

On CNN, Rooney ap­peared to blame his panel’s Democrats for be­gin­ning the de­cline into par­ti­san­ship. But he said “we’ve lost all cred­i­bil­ity” af­ter a year of work. “That’s why I called for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to end.”

Trump, mean­while, praised the draft Repub­li­can re­port, say­ing the White House is “very, very happy” with the GOP con­clu­sions.

“It was a pow­er­ful de­ci­sion that left no doubt, and I want to thank the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee,” Trump told re­porters Tues­day.

The New York Times/AL DRAGO

Repub­li­can Reps. Thomas Rooney and Trey Gowdy con­fer last May be­fore a House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing in Wash­ing­ton. Rooney said Tues­day of the com­mit­tee’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion: “We’ve gone com­pletely off the rails.”

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