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Russia probe: House intel Republicans end probe, find 'no evidence' of collusion

  • March 12, 2018

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called an end on Monday to their year-long investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, concluding that there was “no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

The probe was ended over the objections of Democrats, who charged that key documents and testimony still have not been obtained.

The GOP majority on the House panel will show its draft report to Democrats on Tuesday before seeking approval from the full committee to release it. Democrats plan to write a separate report that will likely conclude there is strong evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The investigation’s abrupt end underscores the bitter partisan divide that has plagued the committee’s work. And it increases pressure on the collegial Senate Intelligence Committee to come out with a credible bipartisan report from its own Russia probe.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who led the Russia investigation for the House Republicans, said the panel conducted 73 witness interviews, held nine hearings and briefings, and reviewed over 300,000 documents.

“We are confident that we have thoroughly investigated the agreed-upon parameters, and developed reliable initial findings and recommendations,” he said.

“We will now be moving into the next phase of this investigation, working with the minority on a report to give the American people answers to the questions they’ve been asking for over a year,” Conaway said. “With the 2018 primary elections already underway and just 238 days until the mid-term elections in November, it’s important that we give the American people the information they need to arm themselves against Russian attempts to influence our elections.”

Republican members of the House committee, including Reps. Tom Rooney of Florida and Peter King of New York, began signaling in recent weeks that they were anxious to wrap things up, saying they had explored all the key evidence.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been warning that Republicans were going to end the investigation prematurely, without calling dozens of important witnesses to testify and without forcing many of those who testified to answer crucial questions.

“At the outset of the Russia probe, both parties committed to a thorough investigation that would follow the facts wherever they lead,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee’s senior Democrat and a former federal prosecutor, said in a recent statement.

Instead, Schiff said, Republicans declined to subpoena witnesses to compel them to answer key questions after witnesses refused to do so during their voluntary, closed-door appearances before the committee. Among the witnesses who refused to answer crucial questions: Donald Trump Jr., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.

When former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon refused to answer questions even after being subpoenaed, Republicans would not take action to hold him in contempt of Congress, Democrats said.

Schiff said Republicans have also refused Democrats’ requests to subpoena vital documents, including financial and communications records that could verify or refute witness testimony.

The committee’s traditional bipartisanship began unraveling in the spring of last year, when Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., took a secret trip to White House grounds to review information gathered by unnamed sources purporting to show that President Trump was under surveillance by the Obama administration during the 2016 campaign.

At a news conference after his trip, Nunes told reporters that he had discovered evidence to support the president’s claim that he was wiretapped at Trump Tower. However, the Justice Department confirmed in a court filing in September that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was targeted for surveillance.

Nunes temporarily stepped aside from the Russia investigation last April when the House Ethics Committee announced that it was investigating whether Nunes violated any laws or congressional rules by disclosing classified information. The Ethics Committee closed its investigation of Nunes in December. 

Even while he had stepped aside, Nunes upset Democrats by continuing to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, has focused his own inquiries on actions by former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. Those inquiries are likely to continue.

The committee’s partisan split grew deeper in February, when Republicans released the “Nunes memo” alleging that the FBI and Justice Department abused their surveillance authority to target Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.

Democrats denounced the Nunes memo as a blatant attempt by Trump and House Republicans to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. They released a rebuttal memo a few weeks later.

At one point, Republicans considered erecting a wall in the committee’s office to separate GOP and Democratic aides. However, that idea appears to have been scrapped.

In addition to the investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee has conducted a more limited probe and is not expected to issue a final report. The most extensive investigation is being run on behalf of the Department of Justice by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose criminal probe is continuing.






















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