WASHINGTON: A Republican-dominated House panel announced Monday that its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election found no collusion by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
“We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” the majority Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said in a summary of their report.
The panel also rejected the notion that Moscow had specifically attempted to boost Trump’s White House effort, a conclusion reached by the country’s top intelligence officials in a January 2017 report.
The summary expressed “concurrence with the Intelligence Community Assessment’s Judgments, except with respect to (Russia President Vladimir) Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump.”
The report signaled a move by Republicans on the deeply divided panel to end their year-old investigation, even as committee Democrats, who had yet to see the report, say they need to interview more witnesses.
“After more than a year, the committee has finished its Russia investigation and will now work on completing our report,” said panel chair Devin Nunes.
“We hope our findings and recommendations will be useful for improving security and integrity for the 2018 midterm elections.”
Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the panel, said the move came under pressure from the White House, where Trump and close advisors face a separate collusion investigation by the Justice Department’s independent prosecutor Robert Mueller.
“While the majority members of our committee have indicated for some time that they have been under great pressure to end the investigation, it is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch,” Schiff said in a statement.
“We have learned a great deal about countless secret meetings, conversations and communications between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, all of which the Trump Administration initially denied,” he added.
“The majority was not willing to pursue the facts wherever they would lead.”
The committee has been riven from the beginning.
Nunes, a close supporter of the president, sought with some success to turn it into an investigation of the previous administration of Barack Obama, whom he and Trump accused of illegally spying on the Republican’s campaign.
Nunes was even suspended by Congress for a time for making covert trips to the White House to share materials relevant to the probe.
The summary of the committee report turned the focus to the Democrats.
It made no mention of the alleged theft and leaks by Russians of embarrassing documents and communications from the campaign of Trump rival Hillary Clinton in mid-2016, which top US intelligence officials have stated as a fact.
Instead, it flipped that allegation on its head by claiming that anti-Trump research “made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign.”
And it criticised the Obama administration for “a lackluster pre-election response to Russian active measures.”
Even if the House probe closes, the Senate Intelligence Committee is still investigating alleged collusion with Russia.
The two parties are cooperating more closely there, though the Republicans have made a similar effort to turn attention to the Obama administration.
Mueller meanwhile has pushed aggressively, indicting several former top Trump aides as he develops evidence of extensive contacts between the campaign and Russia.
He is also investigating whether Trump has tried to obstruct the investigation, and is said to be discussing with White House lawyers whether the president himself will agree to be interviewed.--AFP