Repub­li­cans on

Leader of in­tel­li­gence probe ap­pears less firm on key as­ser­tion in re­port

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KAROUN DEMIRJIAN karoun.demirjian@wash­

the House’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion backed off their claim that for­eign in­ter­fer­ence was not meant to help elect Don­ald Trump.

The leader of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion seemed to back off Tues­day from the most sur­pris­ing find­ing in the GOP’s re­port, that Rus­sia was not try­ing to help Pres­i­dent Trump, as the panel’s top Demo­crat trashed the prod­uct as a po­lit­i­cal gift to the White House.

Rep. K. Michael Con­away (RTex.) told re­porters Tues­day that “it’s clear [Rus­sian of­fi­cials] were try­ing to hurt Hil­lary [Clin­ton]” by in­ter­fer­ing in the 2016 elec­tion and that “ev­ery­body gets to make up their own mind whether they were try­ing to hurt Hil­lary, help Trump, it’s kind of glass half full, glass half empty.”

That equiv­a­lence stands in sharp con­trast to the con­clu­sions of a 150-page GOP-drafted re­port Con­away an­nounced to the news me­dia on Mon­day that con­cludes that the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity “didn’t meet the stan­dards” of proof nec­es­sary to de­ter­mine that Rus­sia med­dled in the 2016 elec­tion with the aim of help­ing Trump.

When it comes to de­ter­min­ing whether Rus­sia in­ter­fered to hurt Clin­ton or help Trump, “you can pitch that ei­ther way,” Con­away said Tues­day.

His com­ments came af­ter other panel Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) gave in­ter­views in which they stressed that there was ev­i­dence that Rus­sia had tried to dam­age Clin­ton’s can­di­dacy.

The re­port’s find­ings on Rus­sia’s in­ten­tions in in­ter­fer­ing is just one area of the doc­u­ment with which Democrats on the panel took is­sue Tues­day af­ter be­ing pre­sented with it in the morn­ing.

The panel’s rank­ing Demo­crat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who called the re­port “not a se­ri­ous work,” said the doc­u­ment was proof that Repub­li­cans were will­ing only to “go through the mo­tions of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion . . . to give the pre­tense of try­ing to find the truth.”

Schiff added that the re­port was “lit­tle more than an­other Nunes memo in long form,” liken­ing it to the four-page doc­u­ment that the panel’s GOP mem­bers, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), put out last month al­leg­ing that the FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment en­gaged in “sur­veil­lance abuses” to mon­i­tor the ac­tiv­i­ties of for­mer Trump cam­paign ad­viser Carter Page. Democrats ac­cused Repub­li­cans of us­ing the Nunes memo to un­der­mine the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion — a charge they also ap­plied to Tues­day’s GOP re­port.

Schiff and other Democrats on the com­mit­tee re­leased a 22-page “sta­tus up­date” Tues­day night, list­ing the var­i­ous wit­nesses, firms and doc­u­ments the panel had de­clined to sub­poena or oth­er­wise ex­am­ine, along with the rea­sons that each would be rel­e­vant to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It also lays out ar­eas of in­quiry that the mi­nor­ity mem­bers say the GOP aban­doned by ter­mi­nat­ing the probe ear­lier than Democrats would have liked.

“There were leads and in­ves­tiga­tive paths on, from my per­spec­tive, three dif­fer­ent and ma­jor sig­nif­i­cant ar­eas: first, on col­lu­sion, se­cond, on money laun­der­ing, and third, on ob­struc­tion of jus­tice,” said Rep. Joaquin Cas­tro, a Demo­cratic panel mem­ber from Texas. “At this point, the ma­jor­ity has cho­sen to ig­nore those.”

Demo­cratic com­mit­tee mem­bers pledged to forge ahead with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and even­tu­ally is­sue their own re­port, although they do not have the abil­ity to sub­poena wit­nesses and other in­for­ma­tion without the panel chair­man’s buy-in.

They re­served spe­cial vit­riol for the GOP’s de­ci­sion not to more ag­gres­sively pur­sue un­co­op­er­a­tive wit­nesses such as for­mer White House strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non, whom Con­away had pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered hold­ing in con­tempt.

“The ma­jor­ity has de­cided they would rather shut down the in­ves­ti­ga­tion than find out the answers to the ques­tions we had for Stephen K. Ban­non,” Schiff said. “This ma­jor­ity doesn’t want to know the answers, and it has set a prece­dent now that will af­fect fu­ture con­gresses’ abil­ity to get answers from the ex­ec­u­tive.”

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