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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump is claiming vindication after the House Intelligence Committee concluded Monday that Russia carried out cyber attacks on American political institutions during the 2016 presidential election, but without colluding with Trump’s campaign.
Trump celebrated the announcement with a tweet in all capital letters, while Democrats reacted with heavy criticism saying the Republican-led committee has failed to defend the United States by not conducting a serious investigative process.
“THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 ELECTION,” Trump wrote, repeating his assertion that his campaign did nothing wrong.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the move is the latest by House Republicans to “obstruct and interfere” with Russia investigations.
“Multiple Americans and Russians have been indicted or pled guilty in the Trump-Russia scandal,” Pelosi said. “Every day, the extent of Russian meddling in our democracy becomes clearer, leaving us with more unanswered questions.”
Representative Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican leading the probe, said Monday that the committee will not interview any more witnesses and its Republican majority will share its 150-page report with the Democratic minority on Tuesday.
“We found no evidence of collusion,” Conaway told reporters, 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 (noted spy fiction writers) 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 report contradicts a January 2017 assessment by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government “developed a clear preference” for Trump and “aspired to help” his chances of defeating Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
An overview of the House Intelligence Committee report released Monday says the panel agrees with the intelligence community’s assessments, “except with respect to Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump.”
The outline further describes a pattern of Russian attacks against U.S. allies in Europe, Russian cyber attacks against U.S. political institutions “and their use of social media to sow discord.” It also casts blame for “lackluster pre-election response” to Russia’s activities and what the authors call “problematic contacts between senior intelligence community officials and the media.”
Brian Hale, the spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the ODNI stands by the January 2017 assessment and will review the House committee’s findings.
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 have criticized Republicans on the committee for shortening the investigation, pointing to multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia and saying they have seen far too few witnesses to make any judgment on collusion.
California Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, released a blistering statement calling the Republican move a “tragic milestone” and a “capitulation to the executive branch.”
“By ending its oversight role in the only 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,” he wrote.
Schiff said the evidence is “clear and overwhelming” that the intelligence community was right. “If the Russians do have leverage over the President of the United States, the Majority has simply decided it would rather not know.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating the Russian intervention, and is expected to have a bipartisan report out in the coming weeks dealing with election security. The Senate panel is expected to issue findings on the more controversial issue of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia at a later date.
The various investigations by the U.S. Congress are separate from the one being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. Unlike Mueller’s probe, congressional investigations aren’t criminal but serve to inform the public and to recommend possible legislation.