The Republican-led House intelligence committee has released a lengthy report concluding it found no evidence Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign – a finding that drew praise from the US president and rebuttals from Democrats.
The report caps an investigation that started with the promise of bipartisanship, but quickly transformed into an acrimonious battle between Democrats and Republicans over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether there were any connections with the Trump campaign.
Mr Trump quickly claimed vindication on Twitter yesterday, writing, “Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. ‘No evidence’ that the Trump Campaign ‘colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia.’ Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!”
The committee’s Republicans didn’t let the Trump campaign completely off the hook. They specifically cited the Trump campaign for “poor judgment” in taking a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian operatives and dubbed the campaign’s praise of WikiLeaks “objectionable”.
“While the committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, co-ordinated or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns,” the House Intelligence Committee wrote.
The report’s conclusion is fiercely opposed by committee Democrats, who accused their Republican colleagues of playing “defence counsel” for the White House throughout the investigation.
“Committee Republicans chose not to seriously investigate – or even see when in plain sight – evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Republican Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the probe, said in a statement.
Mr Schiff cited several “secret meetings and communication” between people linked to Russia and Trump campaign officials, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the president’s eldest son.
The Republican called on the committee to publicly release the transcripts from dozens of interview with key witnesses, saying the public should be able to judge the evidence gathered by the committee.
Republican Mike Conaway called on intelligence officials to clear the committee to release more information from the report that was deemed classified. The 253-page document is packed with details and assessments, but is also littered with redacted names and blacked-out passages.
The House investigation is the first of several inquiries probing Russian election interference to conclude. An investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is ongoing, as is a probe led by the Senate intelligence committee.
Former FBI director James Comey had chosen one of the March 2017 hearings of the House intelligence committee to publicly reveal the FBI had been investigating the Trump campaign since July 2016..