The House Intelligence Committee has set itself a March 22 deadline to make any changes to a draft report authored by panel Republicans, at which point they plan to adopt the report as final and send it on to the intelligence community for any necessary redactions of classified information.
The committee posted a notice of next week’s meeting on its website, defining the window within which members will be able to lobby for changes to the 150-page document. The report was announced to the media on Monday and shared with panel Democrats on Tuesday.
Democrats are not expected to endorse the findings in the Republicans’ report, as they have pledged to continue investigating on their own. On Tuesday, Democratic committee members excoriated their Republican colleagues for concluding there was “no evidence” President Trump or anyone affiliated with him had colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election and that the intelligence community erred in finding the Kremlin pursued “active measures” during the election to aid Trump’s campaign.
As the report deepens political divisions on the House Intelligence Committee, leaders are attempting to strike a bipartisan deal to give the states and the federal government an infusion of cash to improve election security in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told reporters Wednesday that she is confident that the upcoming spending bill, which lawmakers must approve by March 23, will include somewhere around $386 million in election security funds that can be parceled out to states as grants.
“Our whole idea is money going to the states, and remember [Senate Minority Leader Charles E.] Schumer talked about money going to the FBI,” she told reporters. Top Democrats announced last month that they are seeking $300 million to help the FBI combat foreign election interference.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is also expected to release its recommendations for improving election security this month, before lawmakers depart Washington for a two-week break.
On the House Intelligence Committee, divisions about Russian intervention in the elections remain — and promise to hang over the committee even after the panel votes to release the GOP-drafted report next week.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, pledged Tuesday that Democrats on the panel would continue to probe the extent of alleged Trump-Kremlin connections in light of “significant evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.” He also expressed chagrin that the GOP broke with the intelligence community over its findings about Russian interference. At least two Republicans on the panel also appeared to contradict investigation chief K. Michael Conaway’s presentation of how the report broke with the intelligence community. The GOP report never concluded “We don’t see anything [where] the Russians were intending to hurt Hillary [Clinton] and help Trump,” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) told CNN on Monday.
On Tuesday night, Conaway appeared to backtrack from his earlier remarks, telling reporters nothing Russia had done “remotely helped Hillary Clinton” and that whether Russian meddling hurt Clinton or helped Trump was a “glass half-full, glass half-empty” question.
“You can pitch that either way,” Conaway said, while still maintaining that the panel would separately report on how the intelligence community had failed to meet its own standards in making that determination.
“Only [Russian President Vladimir] Putin knows for sure what he wanted to do,” Conaway added.