Amid an expansion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, House Intelligence Committee Republicans announced Monday they have concluded their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and found no evidence Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.
The leader of the investigation, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, told reporters the Republicans on the panel accepted the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia engaged in an effort to interfere with the election. But they “disagree with the narrative that [the Russians] were trying to help Trump.”
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.”
Committee Democrats fiercely oppose the decision to end the interview phase, insisting there are many more witnesses who need to be heard.
They argue that Mueller is now examining new lines of inquiry in the matter.
But Conaway said the verdict is clear.
“We found no evidence of collusion,” he said. “We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take these series of inadvertent contacts with each other, meetings, whatever, and weave that into some sort of a fiction and turn it into a page-turner, spy thriller.”
The lawmaker continued: “But we’re not dealing with fiction, we’re dealing with facts. And we found no evidence of any collusion, of anything that people were actually doing, other than taking a meeting they shouldn’t have taken or inadvertently being in the same building.”
Conaway was referring to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting in Trump Tower June 9, 2016, with a group of Russians who has promised political dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton but didn’t deliver.
“To be pretty blunt, that meeting should not have taken place,” Conway said.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who has called for a probe of the FBI’s handling of its Hillary Clinton investigation, wrote in a tweet after the announcement: “Case closed. It’s time we return focus to the people’s agenda.”
In a statement, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., thanked Conaway and Reps. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Tom Rooney, R-Fla., for their leadership in the year-long investigation.
“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,” Nunes said.
Ranking intel panel member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the the majority report is all about protecting President Trump.
“The grave disservice to the country, essentially, it’s the Intelligence Committee majority saying, ‘We’d just rather not know, if it’s going to be bad news.’ And that is, I think, a betrayal of the promise we made that we would follow the facts wherever they lead,” Schiff said Monday night in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Republicans argue no credible evidence of collusion has been presented by any investigation of the matter, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s.
‘Anti-Trump research from Russian sources’
On Tuesday, the committee will give Democrats a 150-page draft report for review and comment that includes recommendations for securing the integrity of future elections.
Conaway said the panel’s conclusion was based on interviews with 70 witnesses and a review of more than 300,000 pages of documents.
A one-page overview said the draft report contains more than 40 initial findings that describe, among other things, “how anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign; and problematic contacts between senior Intelligence Community officials and the media.”
The overview said the report’s completion “will signify the closure of one chapter in the Committee’s robust oversight of the threat posed by Moscow — which began well before the investigation and will continue thereafter.”
“Additional follow-on efforts arising from the investigation include oversight of the unmasking of Americans’ names in intelligence reports, FISA abuse, and other matters.”
Democrats on the panel, who accused the Republicans of blocking attempts to find the truth to protect Trump, argue witnesses who are under indictment in the Mueller investigation were not interviewed: former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; his deputy, Rick Gates; former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
The committee’s sharp partisan divide was illustrated by the counter-memos issued in February regarding the anti-Trump “dossier” that was used by FBI and Justice Department officials under President Obama to obtain a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign volunteer.
The Republican memo cited then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s testimony that the dossier, though filled with unverified claims against President Trump obtained from Russian sources, was essential to obtaining the warrant. In addition, the top-secret FISA court was never informed that the dossier was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.