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Republicans find no evidence of collusion or Russian preference for Trump

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 12/03/2018 Karoun Demirjian

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House Intelligence Committee Republicans have completed a draft report in their year-long Russia probe that states they found no evidence President Trump or anyone affiliated with him colluded with Russian officials to affect the outcome of the 2016 election, a conclusion expected to incite backlash from Democrats.

Republicans also determined that while the Russian government did pursue “active measures” to interfere in the election, it did not do so with the intention of helping Trump’s campaign, contradicting the U.S. intelligence community’s findings.

“We’ve found no evidence of collusion,” Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who oversees the Russia probe, said Monday. He noted that the worst they had uncovered was “perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment at taking meetings” — such as a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York City between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer. Conaway said that meeting “shouldn’t have happened, no doubt about that.”

“But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, meetings, whatever and weave that into some sort of a fiction, page turner spy thriller,” Conaway said. “We’re not dealing in fiction, we’re dealing in facts, and we found no evidence of any collusion.”

a group of people standing in a room: Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), who oversees the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, speaks to the media in February. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), who oversees the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, speaks to the media in February. The GOP’s conclusion comes as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ramps up his team’s investigation, gathering evidence that an early 2017 meeting in the Seychelles was an effort to establish a backchannel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.

It also contradicts the preliminary findings reached by Democrats on the House panel. Ranking member Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters last month that, based on what he had seen, there was “ample evidence” of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee have interviewed the same 73 witnesses and viewed the same 300,000-plus documents, according to the tally Conaway gave reporters on Monday. Democrats say there are thousands of pages of documents the committee never procured, and dozens more witnesses they need to call for interviews.

Committee Democrats have said the panel should issue several subpoenas for witnesses who have either ignored the committee’s requests to appear or provided incomplete answers during their interviews.

Democrats also have warned Republicans against shutting down the panel’s investigation before Mueller’s is completed.

Conaway dismissed the idea of keeping the investigation open any longer, saying that if Democrats expected him to “sit around and wait with the expectation that something might happen,” his answer was “no.”

He argued against using subpoenas or stronger measures — including contempt citations — to compel more testimony from witnesses who refused to answer questions about their time in the administration, arguing that Trump might eventually want to invoke executive privilege.

“You use subpoenas when you think you can actually get something from them, and we’re not particularly confident that the subpoena process will get us any more information than we had,” Conaway said Monday. “We’ve interviewed everyone we think we need to interview.”

Democrats were not involved with drafting the GOP’s report and were not presented with a copy of the findings before Conaway addressed the media. Conaway said he would give committee Democrats the report Tuesday for their comments, suggestions and proposed changes — taking them under advisement before presenting the document to the intelligence community for redactions. He said it’s unlikely the report would be released publicly before April.

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