House Intel Committee finishes its Russian Federation probe interviews

Drew Angerer  Getty Images North America

House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee effectively closed an investigation into collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign on Monday, declaring none was found.

The GOP leaders will also "content that evidence does not support" the assessment by the US intelligence community that Russia-at the urging of Vladimir Putin-tried to help Trump win.

"We've found no evidence of collusion", Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who oversees the Russian Federation probe, said Monday. "We found no evidence of any collusion of anything people were actually doing, other than taking a meeting they shouldn't have taken or just inadvertently being in the same building".

Conaway, for instance, said the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian lawyer where dirt on Clinton was promised was "ill advised". "We're not dealing in fiction, we're dealing in facts and we found no evidence of any collusion". Conaway said it was clear the Russians were trying to sow discord in the 2016 United States election, but Republicans did not establish the same conclusions as the Central Intelligence Agency that they specifically were trying to help Trump.

"At the outset of the Russian Federation probe, both parties committed to a thorough investigation that would follow the facts wherever they lead", Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee's senior Democrat and a former federal prosecutor, said in a recent statement. Democrats are expected to issue a separate report with much different conclusions. Conaway told reporters that he would give committee Democrats the report on Tuesday for their comments, suggestions and proposed changes, which he would take under advisement before presenting it to the intelligence community for redactions.

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Democrats were not part of the drafting of the GOP's report, and were not presented with a copy of the findings before Conaway addressed the press. Conaway said he saw no "link" between Trump's finances and the committee's investigation, and he did not want to go on a fishing expedition.

He also said there was no evidence that anything "untoward" happened at a 2016 meeting between members of the Trump campaign and Russians, though he called it ill-advised. Conaway did not suggest that Clinton knowingly coordinated with the Russians, but said the dossier clearly "would have hurt him and helped her".

The committee's partisan split grew deeper in February, when Republicans released the "Nunes memo" alleging that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department abused their surveillance authority to target Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016. Tom Rooney of Florida and Peter King of NY, began signaling in recent weeks that they were anxious to wrap things up, saying they had explored all the key evidence.

The committee issued a subpoena to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in January, but in his return testimony he still did not answer questions about his time in the White House. Among the witnesses who refused to answer crucial questions: Donald Trump Jr., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.

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