House Intel votes along party lines to release GOP report

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Thursday to release the Republican report on Russian meddlin...

Posted: Mar 22, 2018 5:30 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2018 5:30 PM

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Thursday to release the Republican report on Russian meddling, which concludes the committee found no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump's team and Russian officials.

The Republican report also disagrees with the intelligence community's assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to help elect Trump President in 2016.

The panel's vote will send the report to the intelligence community for declassification before a redacted version of the report is released to the public.

Democrats rejected the conclusions in the Republican report, and they have accused Republicans of failing to conduct a proper investigation into potential collusion. Democrats are planning to submit an appendix to the report with their views before it goes through the declassification process.

Democrats on the committee made more than a dozen motions during Thursday's business meeting, including to hold former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in contempt and to subpoena a number of senior Trump officials. The motions were rejected by Republicans.

The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said his party members on the also sought to hold the hearing in open session. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, moved to hold the meeting in closed session, according to Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

"The majority report reflects all of the shortcomings of this quasi-investigation," Schiff said in an opening statement at Thursday's meeting.

The Republican findings

Republicans released an unclassified summary of their findings and recommendations, and said they hope that a redacted version of the report will be released to the public as early as next month.

The committee states that when witnesses were "asked directly," none provided evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy" between the Trump campaign and Russia.

"There is no evidence that Trump associates were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign-related emails, although Trump associates had numerous ill-advised contacts with WikiLeaks," the summary states.

The report casts doubt that potential Russian efforts to set up a "backchannel" amounted to evidence of collusion, stating the possibility there such an effort occurred after the election would "suggest the absence of collusion during the campaign, since the communication associated with collusion would have rendered such a 'backchannel' unnecessary."

The findings include many of the committee's past fights, including concluding the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia "formed an essential part" of the FISA surveillance application on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page - which was the subject of the Nunes memo.

The summary does note that the committee is "concerned" about Page's "incomplete accounts of his activity to Moscow" when he traveled their independently of the campaign in July 2016.

The Republican summary also indicates the committee report looks at special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which has been in the crosshairs of many Republicans. Mueller's charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the summary notes, do not "relate to collusion, coordination or conspiracy" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Republicans also cast some doubt on the charges against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The Republican summary states that the charges occurred "even though the FBI agents did not detect any deception during Flynn's interview."

A partisan showdown

Thursday's vote marked the conclusion of the Republican-led investigation that's lasted more than a year and has devolved on numerous occasions into a partisan brawl.

Thursday's meeting was no different, according to lawmakers. At one point, Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, said he clucked like a chicken to underscore how he thought Republicans "lacked courage" and had "ducked one of the most important times in American history."

Democrats have rejected the Republican conclusions, arguing they ignored key witnesses and failed to subpoena documents.

In one finding, the Republican summary states that the committee "found no evidence that President Trump's pre-campaign business dealings formed the basis for collusion during the campaign."

But Republicans have made a point of saying they didn't see a need to probe Trump's pre-campaign finances because they were outside the scope of the committee's investigation.

Conaway, who has led the committee's Russia investigation, rolled out the report last week, which disagreed with the January 2017 intelligence community assessment that Putin intended to help Trump win the election.

But several Republicans on the panel quickly backtracked on the latter assessment, saying they did think Russia was trying to hurt Hillary Clinton.

Conaway tried to clarify that it was a "glass half full, glass half empty" thing about whether one concludes Russia's efforts were designed to help Trump get elected president.

The Republican summary states that the intelligence community's assessment "on Putin's strategic intentions did not employ proper analytic tradecraft."

Conaway said the committee is planning a follow-up report that examines the intelligence community assessment in more depth.

End of the investigation?

While Republicans say Thursday's vote marks the end of the investigation, Democrats are already working to keep their own probe going.

Schiff this week invited Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica contractor who has spoken out against the company over its use of 50 million Facebook accounts, and Aleksander Kogan, the academic who gave the Facebook data to Cambridge Analytica.

Conaway said Thursday that Democratic demands to continue the probe amount to a Democratic "fishing expedition," and he said he saw no need to talk to Cambridge Analytica again, as the panel interviewed CEO Alexander Nix last year.

But Schiff's initial efforts appear to be successful: Wylie accepted the invitation to testify and Kogan told CNN he would be willing to speak to Congress.

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