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The House Intelligence Committee has closed its investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election, having found no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
Over a year after the investigation began, Republican committee members have voted to close the investigation, declaring that no links have been found between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. The committee says it has compiled a report of over 150 pages which would be given to Democrats and then declassified pending a review, however, a report overview stated that “we have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”
Democrats on the committee have criticized the decision, saying they will continue to conduct their own investigation independently.
The probe was instigated not just to determine wrongdoing by the Trump campaign, but also to investigate election-related Russian cyber-attacks and leaks of classified information. While Trump and his campaign come out clean in the report, they are just about the only people that do.
The committee found that Russia had committed cyber-attacks and used social media in order to “sow discord” during the election process, with a “lackluster” response from Obama-era security forces. No link was found between Russian espionage and the Trump campaign, however, as committee member Mike Conway (R-TX) told CNN:
“We found no evidence of any collusion of anything people were actually doing other than taking a meeting they shouldn’t have taken or just inadvertently being in the same building.”
Conway’s statement echoes Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation which last month indicted 13 Russians who “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”
Turning away from Trump, the report actually takes aim at Russian connections with Hillary Clinton, hinting at further information on “how anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign.”
Intelligence officials were also found to have a “problematic” relationship with the media; an unsurprising conclusion given the infamous FBI FISA memo, released by committee chairman Devin Nunes. The committee is set to make a series of recommendations based on their findings, including greater transparency on campaign funding and improved counterintelligence practices.
President Trump, who has consistently denied conspiring with the Russians, was quick to celebrate, taking the finding as a victory and tweeting in triumphant capital letters:
THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
Democrats, on the other hand, have been critical of the findings. The House Intelligence Committee itself has been divided along party lines for some time, highlighted when Nunes released the FISA memo against Democrat wishes. The divisions are so deep that the Dems have rejected the official decision and are reportedly planning to release a competing report making the case for collusion, after all.
Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Minority member of the investigation, has spoken out against the decision, claiming that “history would judge it harshly.” He accused Republicans of putting party alliances before the interests of the country, saying:
“By ending its oversight role in the only authorised investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country…If the Russians do have leverage over the President of the United States, the Majority has simply decided it would rather not know.”
While the investigation has taken over a year and interviewed over 50 people, including Trump campaign staff Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski, as well as Donald Trump Jr., Schiff claims that several avenues have been neglected. According to Schiff, the committee failed to gather evidence such as phone records, text messages, and financial records.
MORE INVESTIGATING TO COME
Trump opponents are far from giving up on their hope of eventually finding evidence of his guilt. The Senate Intelligence Committee still has an investigation ongoing, as does Mueller, whose unwieldy and far-reaching investigation is reportedly looking to postpone findings on Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice, in order to focus more closely on collusion.
House Republicans may be done with the matter, but their conclusions don’t appear to have changed the minds of anti-Trumpers, who seem more convinced than ever that some key piece of evidence will eventually show up – perhaps on a grassy knoll.