Tuesday, 13 March 2018

House Intel releases verdict in Russia probe: No Trump or White House collusion

House Intel Committee Ending Russia Probe, Says No Collusion Found; Schiff Responds

12 March, 2018

Update: Rep. Schiff has responded to the Intel Committee report (via @ChadPergram) :
"The House Majority has announced it is terminating the Russia investigation, leaving to others the important work of determining the full extent of Russian interference in our election."
"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."
"The Majority was not willing to pursue the facts wherever they would lead, would prove afraid to compel witnesses like Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, Jeff  Sessions, Donald Trump Jr, Corey Lewandowski... to answer questions relevant to our investigation."
"Ironically, even while they close down the Russia investigation, they plan to continue trying to put our own government  on trial: this is a great service to the President, and a  profound disservice to the country."
"It is not Mueller’s job to tell the American  people what happened, that is our job, and the Majority has walked away  from it."
"If the Russians do have leverage over the President..the  Majority   has simply decided it would rather not know."
In a surprise announcement, Republican Rep. Mike Conaway - who has been overseeing the committee's probe into whether or not Trump and his associates colluded with Russia - said that the committee is closing its probe with the conclusion that there was no collusion, as President Trump has insisted all along:
Conway made the announcement during an interview with Fox News. Per Fox, the committee will interview no more witnesses and Republicans are in the process of preparing a final report. A draft of that roughly 150-page report will be delivered to committee Democrats for review on Tuesday.
"We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians," Conway said.
Furthermore, after an investigation that lasted more than a year, the committee came to the conclusion that the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a "supposed preference" for then-candidate Trump isn't accurate.
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,” Conaway said.

It seems the Republicans were unable to see what Democrat Rep Schiff saw so plainly...
"There is already, in my view, ample evidence in the public domain on the issue of collusion if you're willing to see it,"Schiff told reporters last month.
"If you want to blind yourself, then you can look the other way."

According to the Associated Press, which was briefed by aides about the draft of the committee report, lawmakers spent hundreds of hours reviewing documents to support their contention that the US intelligence community was wrong.
According to Conaway, the report will agree with the intelligence assessment on most details, including that Russians did meddle in the election. It will detail Russian cyberattacks on U.S. institutions during the election and the use of social media to sow discord.
It will also show a pattern of Russian attacks on European allies - information that could be redacted in the final report. It will blame officials in former President Barack Obama’s administration for a "lackluster" response and look at leaks from the intelligence community to the media.

Unsurprisingly, the Democrats on the committee - led by Schiff, who never missed an opportunity to grandstand about the "lies and corruption" supposedly endemic to the Trump administration - are expected to disagree with the report.

The report is expected to deflect attention away from Trump and toward the Clinton Campaign, which had its fair share of shady dealings with the Russians. 

The draft report included 40 other findings, including how Russians used social media to "sow discord" in 2015 and 2016, a "lackluster" pre-election response to Russian measures, 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."

It will include at least 25 recommendations, including how to improve election security, respond to cyberattacks and improve counterintelligence.

A committee source told Fox News that the "investigation" portion of the probe was complete, meaning the committee would not interview any additional witnesses as part of its effort.
"I’m sure [committee Democrats] will disagree with bringing the interview phase to a close," Conaway told Fox News. “I’m sure they will have specific folks they wanted to interview.”

Republicans on the committee wanted to interview former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Schiff "wanted to delay us," Conaway said. Once Manafort was indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the committee decided not to call him for an interview, per the Associated Press.
"We found no evidence of collusion," Conaway told reporters Monday, suggesting that those who believe there was are reading too many spy novels.
"We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings or whatever, and weave that into sort of a fiction page turner, spy thriller."

The public will not see the report until Democrats have reviewed it and the intelligence community has decided what information can become public, a process that could take weeks. Democrats are expected to issue a separate report with much different conclusions.

Conaway also said that he did not "anticipate" pursuing contempt proceedings against former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon or any other witnesseswho did not respond favorably to the committee's questioning.
To be sure, there are two more Congressional committee investigations, each pursuing evidence into Trump and his associates' relationships with Russian entities.
Conaway took the reins of the probe in April after House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes stepped down amid accusations of making “unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law regulations, or other standards of conduct,” according to the House Ethics Committee which investigated the allegations.
Nunes, R-Calif., thanked Conaway and other top lawmakers for leading the investigation.
After more than a year, the committee has finished its Russia investigation and will now work on completing our report. I’d like to thank Congressmen Trey Gowdy, Tom Rooney, and especially Mike Conaway for the excellent job they’ve done leading this investigation," Nunes said in a statement.
"I’d also like to recognize the hard work undertaken by our other committee members as well as our staff. 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.”
In a development bound to further infuriate Democrats, Republicans on the committee have expanded their investigation of the Trump dossier, seeking answers from a former staffer for Joe Biden and other Obama administration officials. Nunes sent a questionnaire to a former Biden staffer, whose husband worked for Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier, seeking answers to when the administration was made aware of the dossier.

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