The House Intelligence Committee, led by its Republican chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, on Friday released a report detailing its findings in its Russia investigation, ending the panel’s politically charged probe.
It said Russia was responsible for carrying out cyberattacks against the US, disseminating hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, and launching a social media disinformation campaign – findings that mostly echo parts of the US intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
But the committee’s conclusions about whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Moscow left out critical context and painted an incomplete picture of the scope of the campaign’s contacts with Russians.
The full report echoed many of the findings that Republicans on the committee released in March.
Meanwhile, Democrats on the committee vehemently disagreed with the full report’s conclusions.
Among other things, the committee’s report claims:
- The so-called Steele dossier “formed an essential part” of the Justice Department’s application to surveil a former Trump campaign aide.
- Though the former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI during a January 2017 interview, investigators “did not detect any deception” during it.
- None of the witnesses who testified before the committee provided evidence of “collusion, coordination, or conspiracy” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- There was “no evidence” that Trump’s business dealings before the campaign “formed the basis for collusion” during it.
- Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, was not indicted on charges related to collusion.
- A controversial change to the GOP’s platform during the campaign that called for watering down the US’s aid to Ukraine to fend off Russian aggression signified a stronger position toward Russia.
- The FBI launched its Russia investigation based on information it received about a Trump campaign foreign-policy aide named George Papadopoulos.
- Attempts by Papadopoulos to facilitate meetings between Trump and Russia during the campaign were unsuccessful.
- Donald Trump Jr. attended a meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower with two Russian lobbyists offering him dirt on Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, but did not ultimately receive the material.
- Trump Jr. met with a Russian government official – believed to be the Russian politician and banker Alexander Torshin – during the National Rifle Association’s 2016 convention but did not discuss the US election.
- None of the meetings between Trump associates and Russian government representatives amounted to evidence of “collusion, coordination, or conspiracy” with Russia.
- Russia’s efforts to set up a “back channel” of communication with the Trump team after the election indicates there was no collusion during the race.
- Fusion GPS, the opposition-research firm that produced the Steele dossier, once also worked for Russian interests.
- Fusion GPS was hired by a law firm representing Democrats and the Clinton campaign.
- The special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment in February of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that spread disinformation ahead of the election, indicates that Russian actors wanted to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
The committee recommended Europe and the US shore up their cyber defences and lessen economic dependence on Russia to counter its aggression. It also suggested Congress take a larger role in addressing Russia’s cyber activity and empower state and local authorities to secure election infrastructure.
Notably, Republicans also recommended Congress repeal the Logan Act, which makes it illegal for private citizens to conduct policy negotiations on behalf of the US and which several of Trump’s associates, including Flynn, have been accused of violating.
The report also faults the US intelligence community and the Obama administration for their handling of the Russia investigation and attempts by Russia to interfere in the election.
The report’s findings about the US intelligence community include:
- Damaging national-security leaks about the Russia investigation and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia “increased dramatically” after Election Day.
- The former intelligence chief James Clapper may have misled investigators about his contacts with the media.
- The FBI failed to adequately inform people affected by Russian hacking.
- The Department of Homeland Security’s communications with state election officials were “impeded by state officials’ mistrust of federal government overreach coupled with an unprecedented level of Russian cyber intrusions.”
- The intelligence community’s announcement in January 2017 that its assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of elevating Trump to the presidency “was ineffective.”
- The government’s post-election response to Russia’s meddling was “insufficient.”
- While the US intelligence community’s judgments of Russia’s meddling followed protocol, those of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft.”
The House Intelligence Committee has been in disarray since it emerged last year that Nunes bypassed committee protocol and secretly briefed the White House on classified intelligence without informing his colleagues.
Though he subsequently recused himself from the panel’s Russia investigation, Nunes continued to maintain a critical role in its day-to-day activities relating to the investigation.
Earlier this year, the committee’s Republican majority attracted significant scrutiny when it released a controversial memo alleging that the FBI and the Justice Department abused their surveillance authority when it monitored Page ahead of the election. Democrats later released a competing memo that sought to debunk many of the other’s claims.
On Friday, Democrats on the committee slammed the final report on the Russia investigation.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member, accused his Republican colleagues of ignoring what he described as obvious evidence of collusion.
“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, instead adopting the role of defence counsel for key investigation witnesses,” Schiff said.
He added: “The Trump campaign and administration’s efforts to deny, conceal and, when discovered, misrepresent what took place in these interactions with the Russians is powerful evidence of a consciousness of wrongdoing.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell was equally sharp in his condemnation.
“The Trump-Russia report released by the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican majority is an incomplete, inaccurate report of what the Russians did and who they worked with, solely intended to cover up evidence damaging to President Donald Trump,” he said in a statement.