The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to approve a Republican-authored report stating there is no evidence that President Trump or his affiliates colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 U.S. election.
“It went through,” Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who has led the panel’s Russia investigation, said while exiting the committee’s secure facilities on Capitol Hill.
While the vote ends the Russia probe for the panel’s GOP majority, it only stoked the fury of Democrats, who have denounced their colleagues’ findings. The document — whose public release probably remains weeks away — also criticizes the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia sought to help Trump win the presidency.
The committee’s Republicans released a list of the 44 findings and 26 recommendations outlined in their report, which Conaway estimated to be 250 pages with annexes. It will be sent to the intelligence community for redactions on Monday at the earliest, he added — that being the deadline for Democrats to submit a statement of the minority’s view, which will be included in the final product.
Conaway said Thursday he hopes the intelligence community can complete its redactions within two weeks so the panel can release the report when Congress returns to Washington in April following a two-week recess.
The findings “show a pattern of Russian active measures in the United States, both through cyber attacks and their use of social media to sow discord,” Conaway said in a written statement, characterizing the threat to future U.S. elections as “serious.” The document also maintains that the intelligence community “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft” in assessing that the Russian government intended to help Trump’s campaign.
There was “no evidence that meetings between Trump associates — including Jeff Sessions — and official representatives of the Russian government — including Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak — reflected collusion, coordination, or conspiracy,” the findings state, referring to the attorney general, an adviser to Trump during the campaign.
The document says that “possible Russian efforts to set up a ‘back channel’ with Trump associates after the election suggest the absence of collusion during the campaign.” That finding contradicts what Kislyak told Moscow, which is that the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner proposed the back channel with Russia during a meeting in early December 2016. Trump donor and Blackwater security group founder Erik Prince traveled to the Seychelles in January 2017 for a meeting with a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin, an encounter brokered by the United Arab Emirates.
The report acknowledges that some Trump affiliates had contact with outfits such as WikiLeaks that were “ill-advised,” and that campaign officials such as George Papadopoulos and Carter Page had attempted to make contacts with Russian officials. But the findings put some blame on “the Republican national security establishment’s opposition to candidate Trump” for “creat[ing] opportunities for two less-experienced individuals with pro-Russia views” to join the campaign.
The committee also recommended that Congress “consider repealing the Logan Act,” a law that states it is a crime for anyone without authorization to negotiate on behalf of the United States. The law is intended to preserve the United States’ ability to speak with one voice on foreign policy matters but has never been successfully used in court.
The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), complained that the GOP insisted on holding the meeting in a closed session, which, he said afterward, was not the practice when the committee voted to release other documents pending declassification. Transcripts of those meetings were later made public.
Democrats, who opposed adoption of the report, have accused Republicans of prematurely shuttering the committee’s year-long Russia investigation — and willfully disregarding evidence, they argue, demonstrates there was collusion.
“This is not how you run an investigation,” Schiff said in his opening remarks, according to a statement he later released to the media. “This is how you hobble an investigation.”
Schiff said that Democrats made more than a dozen motions during the meeting attempting to issue subpoenas for various witnesses and to hold former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon in contempt for not fully complying with the committee’s subpoena to answer its questions. They sought summonses for Sessions, Prince and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., plus former White House communications director Hope Hicks and former Trump campaign director Corey Lewandowski. All of those motions were denied.
“There is no escaping the fact that any report at this stage is grossly premature when so many key witnesses have yet to be interviewed,” Schiff said in his opening statement, concluding that the investigation was “too difficult politically” and “too perilous” for Republicans to continue.