House Intelligence Committee votes to release GOP report finding no evidence of collusion

Posted on: March 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday along party lines to release the Republican majority’s report on its Russia investigation, formally shutting down the only authorized House investigation into Russian election meddling and allegations of collusion.

“Today, we are one step closer to delivering answers to the questions the American people have been asking for over a year,” Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the top Republican leading the Russian probe, said in a statement.

The report, along with a Democratic minority view that will be turned over by Monday, now heads to the intelligence community for declassification, a process that could take weeks.

Republicans said they found no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in witness interviews, and concluded that the panel found no evidence of collusion related to Trump’s pre-campaign business dealings.

Democrats argued that Republicans prematurely shut down the investigation under political pressure, and refused to follow important and unresolved leads.

Saying Thursday’s vote ended a “rather sad chapter” in the traditionally bipartisan committee’s history, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the committee, called the GOP report a “fundamentally unserious effort.”

“It was clear that their report was going to be completely political from beginning to end, and there wasn’t much to work on in a joint fashion,” he said of the GOP offer to amend the initial draft report.

Republicans released a summary of findings and recommendations in their report after the vote, which dismissed allegations of wrongdoing during the campaign by Trump associates and family members, including Donald Trump Jr., who met with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton in June 2016; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who faced questions about his meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the campaign.

Republicans also concluded that leaks of classified information since the election “have damaged national security and potentially endangered lives,” and accused former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of providing “inconsistent testimony” to the committee about his contacts with the media.

Conaway and committee Republicans initially said their report disagreed with the assessment from top intelligence officials that Russian President Vladimir Putin preferred Trump to win the election over Hillary Clinton. That finding, which some Republicans on the committee disputed, was not included in the summary of findings released Thursday, though Republicans said the intelligence community “did not employ proper analytical tradecraft” regarding Putin’s “strategic intentions.”

Democrats offered motions to subpoena more than a dozen witnesses and entities to compel additional testimony, documents and information, including outgoing White House communications director Hope Hicks, Sessions and Deutsche Bank.

Republicans opposed the moves, Schiff said, adding that Democrats plan to push the committee to release witness interview transcripts.

The minority also unsuccessfully pushed Republicans to hold former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer committee questions under subpoena, Schiff said.

Democrats plan to continue investigating unilaterally, amid reports that a data firm tied to the Trump campaign improperly collected data from millions of Facebook profiles without permission.

They are planning to interview Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee who has alleged wrongdoing at the company, and could release their own minority report sometime before the midterm elections. Republicans, who have signaled that they will not join additional interviews, have accused Democrats of seeking to extend the probe for political purposes.

The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, however, has continued in a bipartisan fashion, and the panel held a hearing Wednesday on election security.

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