House Intel Panel Ends Highly Charged Probe of 2016 Election

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Intelligence Committee ended its probe into the 2016 presidential election Friday, concluding there is no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia.

In a 253-page, heavily redacted report, the Republican-led committee said while it found no evidence of collusion, over the course of its investigation, it did “identify numerous shortcomings, including counterintelligence concerns, classified leaks, puzzling legal processes and inappropriate or questionable behavior” by both the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The report comes after a brief memo was issued last month summarizing the findings. In Friday’s release, the committee elaborated and exonerated Trump from accusations of wrongdoing, claiming instead that it was the intelligence community and FBI that failed to properly respond to interference in the 2016 election.

The cyber attacks over “covert platforms, social media, third party intermediaries and state-run media” in the run up to the election allowed for hacked material to snake its way through to a series of bad actors who had “the objective of undermining the effectiveness of the future administration.”

“This dissemination worked in conjunction with derisive messages posted on social media to undermine confidence in the election and sow fear and division in American society,” the report states.

The committee also did not agree with assessments that Russian President Vladimir Putin preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton.

The report also found “no evidence that Trump associates were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton-campaign-related emails, although Trump associates had numerous ill advised contacts with Wikileaks.”

After the report’s release Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., issued a statement eschewing the report as a way for Republicans to “not seriously investigate or even see, when in plain sight, evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

“Instead they [adopted a] role of defense counsel for key investigation witnesses,” he said.

Historically, Schiff has been highly critical of the committee’s handling of the probe and its chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

President Trump chimed in on Twitter Friday morning as well. After the report was released, he wrote on Twitter: “House Intelligence Committee Report released. ‘No evidence’ that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia. Clinton campaign paid for opposition research from Russia – Wow! A total Witch Hunt. MUST END NOW!”

In addition to Schiff, several democratic lawmakers have rejected the Republican majority’s decision to stop the investigation, arguing it was a move made to protect the president or curry favor with his administration.

In the report, there are two primary incidents which critiqued the behavior of the president or his inner circle.

The first was the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York City where Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign aides met with a Russian attorney. The meeting took place after Trump Jr. discovered that the attorney had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Then, the committee criticized Trump’s shows of support for Wikileaks.

His “periodic praise for and communications with Wikileaks, a hostile foreign organization,” was “highly objectionable” and “inconsistent,” the report states.

Both Clinton and the Democratic National Committee were to blame for the “salacious and unverified” dossier containing allegations about Trump’s activities and ties to Russia.

The House Intelligence Committee contends that the dossier, created in part by one-time British spy Christopher Steele, was funded by Clinton and the DNC who used “intermediaries to obscure their roles” to get the opposition research on then-candidate Trump.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the amount of redactions in the report.

“Many of the redactions include information that is publicly available such as witness names and information previously declassified,” Conaway said in a statement Friday.

Redactions in future reports would be challenged, he added.

“I don’t believe the information we’re releasing today meets that standard which is why my team and I will continue to challenge the many unnecessary redactions with the hopes of releasing more of the report in the coming months,” Conaway said.

The ultimate findings will be unearthed in another report, Rep. Schiff said Friday.

“To determine whether this evidence of collusion reaches the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal conspiracy, we must await the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller since the majority refused to interview the witnesses and obtain the documents necessary to find out,” he said.

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