Monday, 24 September, 2018

Trump celebrates GOP intelligence report with all-caps tweet

Conaway of Texas right last month in Washington. Credit Jacquelyn Martin  Associated Press Conaway of Texas right last month in Washington. Credit Jacquelyn Martin Associated Press
Faye Gross | 13 March, 2018, 07:04

After interviewing dozens of witnesses over the course of more than 12 months, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee wrote in a yet-to-be-released report there was no nefarious coordination between Trump and Russian actors.

The House Republicans' announcement shifts attention across the Capitol to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been conducting its own investigation.

"We've found no evidence of collusion", Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who oversees the Russian Federation probe, said Monday. "We're not dealing in fiction".

In early January, the Washington Free Beacon reported that the House Intelligence Committee was expanding its investigation into how the FBI and Department of Justice handled its probe into interference.

In addition to the statement on coordination with Russians, the draft picks apart a central assessment made by the USA intelligence community in the months after the 2016 election.

The panel also said it accepted United States intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russians had sought to interfere in the election, but rejected the idea that Moscow had specifically attempted to boost Trump's White House effort. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the intelligence material.

Asked if he's concerned that lack of access to witnesses, combined with Democrats' criticism and lingering questions will undercut the value of the House GOP report, Conaway said he hoped the final product - and its supporting documents - would speak for itself.

That's according to a statement from Brian Hale, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

At one point, Republicans considered erecting a wall in the committee's office to separate GOP and Democratic aides.

The leader of the investigation, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, told reporters Monday the Republicans on the panel accepted the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that Russian Federation engaged in an effort to interfere with the election. After the committee votes to adopt it - likely with Republicans having a majority on the panel - it will be submitted for a declassification review.

The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, suggested that by wrapping up the probe the Republicans were protecting Trump.

Trump’s onetime campaign manager was the House committee’s final interview. Credit Tasos Katopodis
Trump’s onetime campaign manager was the House committee’s final interview. Credit Tasos Katopodis

"It is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch", Schiff said.

Schiff issued a list of subpoena requests Democrats had made that had gone ignored by Republicans on the committee.

According to Conaway, the report will agree with the intelligence assessment on most details, including that Russians did meddle in the election.

Russians used cyberattacks and social media to sow discord in the U.S.

The bottom line, he said, is that the Russians "did commit active measures against our election in '16, and we think they will do that in the future". The document includes more than 25 recommendations related to election and cyber security, counterintelligence practices and campaign finance rules. Trump, meanwhile, has continued to deny any collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation for the goal of targeting Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and benefiting of his campaign. He said the committee was preparing a separate, in-depth analysis of the intelligence community's assessment.

He said the probe focused on: Russian interference in the 2016 election, the government's response, links between Russians and both the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and the purported leaks of classified information.

"To be pretty blunt, that meeting should not have taken place", Conway said.

He pushed back on Democrats' accusations that committee Republicans have been pressured to end the investigation, noting that he has avoided contact with the president since taking over the investigation last April. The Senate panel is expected to issue findings on the more controversial issue of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation at a later date.

The House GOP investigation failed to interview Manafort, or his partner Rick Gates, or Michael Flynn, or George Papadopoulos, all of whom have been indicted by Robert Mueller, and the latter three of whom are cooperating with his investigation. It's unclear if the Judiciary panel will produce a final report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is still probing the issue, as is special counsel Robert Mueller, whose wide-ranging investigation is also looking into other potential misdeeds by those in the president's orbit.

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