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House Republicans move to wrap up Russia probe, find no evidence of collusion

March 12, 2018 - 8:44 pm
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(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are wrapping up the panel’s Russia investigation and have finished interviewing witnesses and moved on to drafting a final report, the Republican leading the probe said Monday — a move that will likely further inflame partisan tensions that have characterized the committee’s investigation.

Committee Republicans found “no evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, told reporters Monday afternoon, but noted that the draft report concludes that the campaign exhibited “bad judgement” in taking a controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

“We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment,” he said. “But only Tom Clancy … could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, meetings, whatever, and weave it into some sort of fiction, page-turner, and spy thriller.”

Thursday night, President Trump tweeted "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."

According to Conaway, the draft report is 150 pages, draws on 73 witness interviews and over 300,000 documents and also agrees with the intelligence community assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. He says it notably disputes the assertion from several intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton and raises questions about the accuracy of the underlying intelligence behind the intelligence community’s determination.

ABC News has not reviewed the report.

Democrats, who have pressed the Republican majority to interview additional witnesses and subpoena documents and information from former Trump campaign officials and social media companies, were not officially informed of plans to end interviews or probe at large, as of Monday afternoon, a Democratic committee official said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the committee, criticized Republicans for ending the investigation.

"By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly," he said in a statement Monday, adding that Democrats would continue their investigative work.

Republicans plan to share the report with Democrats on Tuesday and will invite them to review and make changes.

Republicans and Democrats have sparred over the nature and direction of their investigation since first establishing the parameters of the probe last March, and are likely to release dueling reports at the conclusion of the investigation.

Schiff recently called on Republicans to subpoena several Trump associates, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump Jr., and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who refused to answer some of the committee’s questions behind closed doors.

“You use subpoenas when you think you can actually get something from them,” Conaway said Monday when asked about Democrats’ complaints. “We’re not particularly confident that the subpoena process would get us any more information that we have.” Conaway said Monday that he hopes the report will be released to the public soon after the committee votes to release it and the intelligence community can declassify the report.

Conaway did not rule out reopening the investigation if new information emerges from the Senate Russia investigation or special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

He pushed back on Democrats’ accusations that committee Republicans have been pressured to end the investigation, noting that he has avoided contact with the president since taking over the investigation last April.

The U.S. intelligence community disagreed with the Republican conclusion that Putin had no preference for Trump and otherwise questions the accuracy of the intelligence agencies' findings.

Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence told ABC News: "The Intelligence Community stands by its January 2017 assessment, 'Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections." We will review the HPSCI report findings."

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