‘No evidence’ Trump campaign colluded with Russia, says Republican-led House committee
‘Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!’ was the US president’s response to the release of the committee’s findings
The Republican-led House intelligence committee on Friday released a lengthy report concluding it found no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign, drawing praise from the president and rebuttals from Democrats.
President Donald Trump wasted no time celebrating the news.
“Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released,” he tweeted. “‘No evidence’ that the Trump Campaign ‘colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia.’ Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!”
Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. “No evidence” that the Trump Campaign “colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia.” Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2018
The report caps an investigation that began with the promise of bipartisanship but quickly transformed into an acrimonious battle between Democrats and Republicans over Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and whether there were any links to the Trump campaign.
But the committee’s Republicans did not let the Trump campaign completely off the hook. They specifically cited the Trump campaign for “poor judgment” in taking a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower that was described in emails to Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jnr, as part of a Russian government effort to aide his father’s presidential bid. The report also dubbed the campaign’s praise of WikiLeaks “objectionable”.
“While the committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns,” the House intelligence committee wrote.
The House report’s conclusion was fiercely opposed by Democrats on the committee, who accused the Republicans of playing “defence counsel” for the White House throughout the investigation.
“Committee Republicans chose not to seriously investigate – or even see, when in plain sight – evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee. He cited several “secret meetings and communication” between people linked to Russia and Trump campaign officials, including Trump Jnr and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Schiff called on the committee to publicly release the transcripts from dozens of interviews with key witnesses, saying the public should be able to judge the evidence.
The report faults intelligence officials during the Obama administration for not telling the Trump campaign that some of its members were “potential counter-intelligence concerns”. It specifically cites Flynn, former Trump campaign foreign policy advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The panel also singles out Manafort for criticism, saying the numerous criminal charges he faces unrelated to Russia illustrated the need for better vetting by the campaign.
“If the accusations against Manafort are true, he should have never served as a senior official with a campaign for the US presidency, much less campaign chairman or manager,” the report said. Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.
The report challenges one part of a January 2017 intelligence assessment that found that alleged Russian meddling was an effort to help Trump. The report says committee staff found “intelligence failings” that undermine that assessment by the FBI, CIA and NSA, though specifics are not detailed and some portions of that section are redacted.
House investigators cautioned that Russia will continue meddling in US elections and suggested some fixes that would help the government and politicians better defend against that interference.
The panel wrote that intelligence officials should immediately alert presidential candidates and Congress when they discover “legitimate” threats to a campaign. The panel also recommended the executive branch “crack down” on leaks by conducting polygraphs.