House Republicans Declare No Evidence of Collusion
By NICHOLAS FANDOSMARCH 12, 2018
WASHINGTON — Even as the special counsel expands his inquiry and pursues criminal charges against at least four Trump associates, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said Monday they have found no evidence of collusion between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 election.
Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, who is leading the investigation, said committee Republicans agreed with the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered with the election, but they broke with the agencies on one crucial point: that the Russians had favored Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
“The bottom line: The Russians did commit active measures against our election in ’16, and we think they will do that in the future,” Mr. Conaway said. But, he added, “We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.”
The announcement brought to an abrupt end to one of two remaining bipartisan investigations into the topic on Capitol Hill and is sure to provoke sharp objections from committee Democrats, who have been warning Republicans not to close the matter. Republicans have decided to end the inquiry even as new evidence has emerged that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is pursuing new lines of inquiry related to the case that have been left largely unexplored by the committee.
The decision to end the investigation with a conclusion of no collusion hands Mr. Trump a convenient talking point even before Mr. Mueller interviews the president and possibly other key witnesses.
“We found no evidence of collusion. We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings,” Mr. Conaway said during a briefing with reporters on Monday afternoon. “But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take these series of inadvertent contacts with each other, meetings, whatever, and weave that into some sort of a fiction and turn it into a page-turner, spy thriller.”
Mr. Conaway said the committee would turn over a 150-page draft report to Democrats on Tuesday for review and comment. The document includes more than 25 recommendations related to election and cybersecurity, counterintelligence practices and campaign finance rules. He said the committee was preparing a separate, in-depth analysis of the intelligence community’s assessment.
The decision leaves just a single committee on Capitol Hill that is investigating full time an attack on American democracy, in addition to the special counsel.
Mr. Conaway said the panel interviewed more than 70 witnesses and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of documents. Democrats say that effort has fallen well short of gathering all the evidence. Important witnesses have not been interviewed, and records have not been subpoenaed, including bank documents and certain communications that Democrats say are paramount to understanding the case.
The committee’s final interview took place on Thursday with Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign manager.
Several witnesses thought to be central to the investigation never came before the panel, including Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Mr. Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates; Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn; and Mr. Trump’s former campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, all of whom are under indictment by the special counsel.
Others, including George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former Trump aides, only recently came to the committee’s attention.
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