Five takeaways from House GOP report clearing Trump on Russia collusion

Five takeaways from House GOP report clearing Trump on Russia collusion 

Posted: 3:00 am Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

By Jamie Dupree

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are handing over to Democrats a draft report on the probe into Russian interference in the last election for President, as the GOP found no evidence of any type of coordination or conspiracy between Russia and the Trump Campaign, ending what has been a protracted partisan battle on the panel about the Russia investigation.

For President Donald Trump, it was exactly that outcome that he had long been calling for, repeatedly charging that this was nothing but a ‘witch hunt,’ claiming it was sour grapes for Democrats looking to figure out why Hillary Clinton had lost.

Mr. Trump produced an all-caps tweet to mark the news.

Let’s take a look at what we learned from the GOP announcement:

1. GOP: No collusion, no coordination, no Trump problems. In a one page outline of their findings, Republicans said they would detail Russian cyber attacks in 2015-2016, and a “lackluster pre-election response” by the Obama Administration. The GOP will also continue its push to argue that the Clinton campaign was using anti-Trump research “from Russian sources” – most likely a reference to the Steele Dossier, along with what was described as “problematic contacts” between the news media and the Intelligence Community. “We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” the House GOP stated in a one page release.

2. Not the finest hour for the Congress. Let’s be honest, the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling will not go down in Capitol Hill history as an example of bipartisan cooperation. It evaporated soon after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) suddenly rushed to the White House to proclaim that there was evidence of Obama Administration wrongdoing on ‘unmasking,’ which Democrats said was nothing but a diversion. It reached a high point when the GOP suddenly unveiled its own memo on one small part of the Russia probe to allege FBI investigator misconduct. There was even talk of building a wall in the committee office to separate the staff by party. That’s not how this is supposed to work. This was not Sam Ervin and Howard Baker. In fact, one Republican on the panel, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), admitted last night that the committee had “gone off the rails.”

3. Not a complete investigation of Trump-Russia. If there is one person who is central to contacts between Russia and top Trump officials, that would be former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has already pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents when asked about speaking during the transition with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. But Flynn was never brought before the House Intelligence Committee for questioning. Neither was George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump, who actions may have spurred the initial FBI investigation in July 2016. Flynn and Papadopoulos have both already entered guilty pleas for lying to investigators. We’ll see whether they merit much of a mention in the final GOP report.

4. Some questions unanswered. Some subpoenas never sent. Not only were some key players never interviewed, but a number of witnesses reportedly refused to answer a series of questions, often at the behest of the White House. Hope Hicks. Donald Trump, Jr. Corey Lewandowski. Steve Bannon. It left Democrats exasperated, as they charged that Republicans were doing all they could to shield the President. But like the GOP memo on the Carter Page investigation, Democrats will get the chance to write their own report as well. As mentioned above, it’s a messy ending to what could have been a bipartisan probe of Russian election interference. But it wasn’t in the cards in 2017-2018.

5. The Russians like what they hear. Not afraid to weigh in on social media on U.S. political battles, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. gave the thumbs up to the quotes of Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), who headed the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference. Some might say the election trolling continues.

One reminder – this investigation is far from over. The Senate Intelligence continues its work. And Special Counsel Mueller does as well.

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