House GOP finds no collusion, but criticizes Trump Campaign over Russia, Wikileaks contacts

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a 253 page report into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, as the GOP said the evidence clearly showed Russian cyberattacks and disinformation efforts, but no collusion between the campaign of President Donald Trump and Moscow.

The GOP panel though specifically faulted certain actions by the Trump Campaign, which raised questions about possible ties with Russia, singling out a meeting that involved Donald Trump, Jr., the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort, and others.

“For example, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer who falsely purported to have damaging information on the Clinton campaign demonstrated poor judgment,” Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee wrote.

“The Committee also found the Trump campaign’s periodic praise for and communications with Wikileaks – a hostile foreign organization – to be highly objectionable and inconsistent with U.S. national security interests,” the committee’s report concluded.

“Wikileaks played a key role in Russia’s malign influence campaign and served as a third party intermediary for Russian intelligence during the period leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the GOP report stated, but made clear that the investigation had not established a direct link between Wikileaks and the Trump Campaign.

“There is no evidence that Trump associates were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign-related emails, although Trump associates had numerous ill-advised contacts with Wikileaks,” the GOP found.

Without addressing any specific details, President Trump quickly heralded the release of the Republican House Intelligence report, once again trumpeting that there had been no collusion with Russia, and pointing the finger at the Hillary Clinton campaign over its own Russia-related research.

Along those lines, the House GOP report also sternly criticized Democrats – and the Clinton Campaign – for their opposition research efforts which culminated in the production of what is known as the “Steele Dossier,” an intelligence review of Mr. Trump by a former British intelligence agent, which has stirred controversy since it became public in January of 2017.

“The Committee also found that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, using a series of cutouts and intermediaries to obscure their roles, paid for opposition research on Trump obtained from Russian sources,” the report said, drawing on an argument that President Trump has made repeatedly about the Russia investigation.

Republicans spent a good chunk of the report rebutting specific findings of the Steele Dossier, saying there was “no evidence” to support allegations involving the President and prostitutes during a visit to Moscow, “no information” to confirm reports of meetings involving certain Russian figures and people linked to the Trump Campaign, and said Steele may have been the victim of Russian disinformation efforts.

“Steele declined to testify before the Committee, and the two witnesses who claimed to know some of Steele’s sources,” the report stated, “declined to identify them.”

Many passages in the declassified report were redacted, leaving a number of details classified, and out of the public sphere.

A number of those redactions revolved around leaks by the Intelligence Community, which Republicans in this report charged accelerated after Mr. Trump won the 2016 election – making the argument that U.S. officials quickly moved to undermine the President-Elect by releasing information on possible Russian ties related to the campaign.

“The Committee assesses that leaks to CNN about the dossier were especially significant,” as Republicans closely evaluated statements by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

As for the response – in real-time – by the U.S. Government to the Russian threat in 2016, the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee faulted the Obama Administration and Intelligence Community for not recognizing the severity of the threat.

“The U.S. government’s subsequent response to the Russian active measures campaign during the 2016 election was slow and inconsistent,” the GOP committee report concluded, faulting the FBI for not doing more to convey a message of concern to some of those who had been targeted by hacking efforts.

The panel also faulted state and local officials for reacting slowly, pointing out that some refused to cooperate with federal officials who were tracking efforts to hack into state election databases.

As noted above, the report was filled with redactions, and that drew the ire of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who said in a statement that the blacked-out portions of the GOP report were “excessive” and “unjustified.”

The panel had approved the release of the report in late March; it was then sent to various intelligence agencies for review.

Democrats have loudly objected to the GOP conclusions contained in this report, arguing that it is one-sided, and did not explore all avenues of investigation; in late March, Democrats issued their own lengthy rebuttal.

Even the GOP acknowledged that today’s report will not be the final word on the matter.

“We acknowledge that Investigations by other committees, the Special Counsel, the media, or interest groups will continue and may find facts that were not readily accessible to the Committee or outside the scope of our investigation,” the GOP report stated.