Republicans End House Russia Probe Over Democrats’ ObjectionsBy
Draft report finds no evidence of Trump campaign collusion
Democrats on the panel will likely write their own report
Republicans who control the House Intelligence Committee ended an investigation into the 2016 presidential election over intense objections from Democrats, saying they found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.
The committee’s GOP leaders announced their decision on Monday, adding that they plan to release a report soon on their findings. The probe -- originally intended to be bipartisan -- is ending even though an inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller remains underway and at least four people connected to the president’s campaign are facing criminal charges.
A draft summary of what the Republicans say will ultimately be a final report agrees with assessments by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia conducted cyberattacks on American political institutions and sought to sow discord through social media, but not with their conclusion that the campaign was carried out to help Trump.
“After more than a year, the committee has finished its Russia investigation and will now work on completing our report," the chairman, Devin Nunes of California, said in a statement. "Once the committee’s final report is issued, we hope our findings and recommendations will be useful for improving security and integrity for the 2018 midterm elections.”
Representative Adam Schiff of California, the panel’s top Democrat said Republicans on the committee have been under pressure to end the investigation and doing so now “represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch."
“By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the majority has placed the interests of protecting the president over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly,” Schiff added.
In a Twitter post on Monday night, Trump wrote the Intelligence Committee had "found no evidence of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election." The entire tweet was in capital letters.
The top House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement Monday that the committee’s decision “is part of a disturbing pattern by the House GOP to obstruct and interfere with investigations into the Trump-Russia scandal. Speaker Ryan has allowed the House Intelligence Committee to make a mockery not only of the investigation but the Committee itself. ”
The Republicans’ announcement is likely to further inflame the partisanship that has consumed the panel almost since the start of the inquiry on Jan. 10, 2017. The two parties haven’t even been able to agree on the scope of their investigation into Russian meddling. The conclusion that there was no evidence of collusion echoes an argument the president’s been making since the inquiries into Russian election meddling began.
The draft report is set to be delivered to committee Democrats on Tuesday for review and comment. After the committee votes to adopt it -- likely with Republicans having a majority on the panel -- it will be submitted for a declassification review. A declassified version then will be made public.
An early overview of the 150-page draft provided by Republicans on Monday said it will report there was evidence of Russian cyberattacks on American political institutions in 2015 and 2016, and Russians’ use of social media to sow discord, and that the U.S. government was slow to respond. It will conclude, however, that "we have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians."
The Republican assigned to head the committee’s Russia probe, Representative Michael Conaway of Texas, said he believes all the findings of the report can be substantiated.
He said in an interview that despite Schiff’s remarks, he still hopes Democratic comments can be incorporated into the final version. He also said he doubts that many witness transcripts will be included, as he had hoped.
“We may not be able to do that, turns out,” said Conaway, who had previously said he hoped to release transcripts so that everyone could see what the committee based its findings on. But he said one problem is that such a move could chill future witnesses who testify before the committee.
Two Parties, Two Reports
Democrats are expected to write their own report, given the list of witnesses they say haven’t testified and documents they say haven’t been pursued by the majority.
Schiff said late last month that there are “dozens of important witnesses who have yet been invited,” and others who have refused to answer direct questions “of core investigative interest to the committee, and have asserted unprecedented and risible claims of privilege.”
The Democrats argue that the committee should call back some witnesses, including Donald Trump Jr. and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Panel members also remain unsatisfied with the testimony of two other high-profile witnesses close to Trump, Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, and outgoing White House Communications Director Hope Hicks as well as former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. The Democrats also say the committee has failed to pursue vital documents, including financial and communications records held by third-party service providers.
“Our ability to work together has completely crumbled,” said Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat who serves on the intelligence committee, Tuesday on MSNBC. Democrats on the committee had “zero notice” that Republicans had ended the investigation, he said. Members “found out on Twitter and on the news.”
— With assistance by Laura Curtis