Monday the GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee announced they were wrapping up their Russia investigation having found no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Later that evening, Rep. Mike Conaway made clear that in addition to the non-collusion finding, the Intel Committee had a disagreement with the intelligence committee on another issue: Did Russia attempt to help the Trump campaign?
“We had two trained analysts and two trained professionals go through that with a fine-toothed comb, all the underlying documents, thousands of pages of documents,” Conaway told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He continued, “And the piece about…Putin purported preference for Trump, we think is not supported by the evidence.”
Last night, Politico reported that Rep. Trey Gowdy was breaking from the GOP members of the committee on that issue.
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said that the evidence gathered by the committee clearly showed Russia’s disdain for Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, and was “motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.”
A source familiar with Gowdy’s thinking said the congressman believes there’s no difference between opposing Clinton and backing Trump in what had become, effectively, a two-person race. The source added that Gowdy “disagrees with the conclusion” that the intelligence agencies got it wrong.
“He believes the debate over whether desiring a negative outcome for Clinton necessarily meant Russia had a preference for candidate Trump is a distinction that doesn’t make a difference,” the source said.
I’ve argued previously that Putin’s real goal was harming Hillary Clinton. Helping Trump was a byproduct of that goal once it became a two-person race. That’s exactly how former FBI Director Comey described it in congressional testimony last March. “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much,” Comey said. Rep. Conaway questioned Comey on this at the time:
[Putin] wanted her to lose and him to win?,” Conaway asked.
“They are inseparable,” Comey replied. “It’s a two-person event.”
“When did you decide [Putin] wanted him to win?”
“Logically, when he wanted her to lose,” Comey said to laughter.
So, again, Gowdy seems to be agreeing with Comey that in a two-person race, trying to hurt one person is, by default, trying to help their opponent. That’s true but it seems to me the media has been largely focused on one side of that coin. The fact that Putin had a specific electoral grudge against Hillary doesn’t get the same emphasis, probably because that doesn’t fit as well with the collusion narrative Democrats are pushing.
In contrast to Gowdy’s take, last night Rep. Chris Stewart appeared on CNN and backed up the position taken in the forthcoming report. After looking at the raw intelligence on which the IC judgment was based, he believes the CIA simply got this wrong.
"The CIA just got it wrong," says GOP Rep. Chris Stewart about the intelligence community's assessment that Russian President Putin was trying to help the Trump campaign over Hillary Clinton https://t.co/E4Ty4U5bnU pic.twitter.com/xjf9ZexXPd
— CNN (@CNN) March 13, 2018
Rep. Stewart suggests in the clip that the committee report will provide a lot more information on this topic. Of course, the Democrats will be releasing their own counter-report and you can bet this issue will be a focus of their attention as well.