It might take a while to read around the redactions, the amount of which has already generated complaints, but you won’t find many surprises in the House Intelligence Committee report on Russian influence on the 2016 election. The Republican majority report emphasizes that no evidence of collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives has emerged. However, the report takes both the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns to task for sloppy security and risky attempts to develop oppo research that brought them into too-close proximity to hostile foreign entities:
House Intelligence Committee Republicans released a redacted version of their final report from a year-long probe into Russia’s “multifaceted” influence operation, which accuses the intelligence community of “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in determining that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election to help President Trump.
The report generally absolves Trump and his associates of wrongdoing, finding “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government.” The report does, however, criticize both the Trump and Clinton campaigns for “poor judgment and ill-considered actions,” such as Trump campaign officials’ decision to meet with a Russian lawyer offering compromising information on Hillary Clinton in Trump Tower in June 2016.
It also criticizes the Obama administration for a “slow and inconsistent” response to mounting Russian threats.
House Intelligence Committee Democrats refused to endorse the report, claiming that the GOP intentionally steered the investigation away from scrutiny of the president as well as manipulating the interview schedule, refusing to issue subpoenas, and otherwise undermining the integrity of the probe, which they believe is still incomplete.
That’s … not terribly unexpected. Republicans have been arguing for months that no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy with Russian agents has been found. Democrats on the panel, led by ranking member Adam Schiff, argue that Republicans haven’t found any because they’re not terribly interested in looking for it:
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the committee, said Republicans conducted a “fundamentally flawed investigation” and called the conclusions “superficial.”
“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, instead adopting the role of defense counsel for key investigation witnesses,” he said in a statement.
Democrats also released their own dissenting views on the investigation and Republican report.
In other words, if you’re disappointed in this outcome, don’t fret much. Just wait for the next HIC investigation when Democrats take control of the House. Schiff would take over the chair of the committee if Democrats win a majority in November, and he’d clearly like nothing better than to run his own investigation free of Republican leadership. However, Robert Mueller’s probe will likely wrap up before then, and if he can’t produce any evidence of collusion, any new investigation will lose its cachet.
Donald Trump certainly liked what he read:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2018
Most of the other findings are equally unsurprising or have been telegraphed far in advance, but there are still a few surprises. One amusing point listed in the summary laid the blame for Carter Page and George Papadopoulos’ presence within Team Trump on “the Republican national security establishment’s opposition to candidate Trump[.]” That’s a mighty big stretch to cover poor vetting of advisors to the campaign. They certainly found a significant number of advisors less problematic than those two, so it wasn’t exactly as though Trump got completely locked out. Besides, Trump ran specifically to defeat the establishment, both in the GOP and in Washington, and repeatedly attacked those who had worked in both. The hostility was at the very least mutual, and beneficial to Trump in the long run, no?
At any rate, the Friday morning release guarantees deep thoughts all weekend long and dominance of the Sunday-morning talk shows. But Mueller’s the real game here, and everyone knows it.