House Dems blast GOP, point to 'significant evidence' of Russian collusion

House Dems blast GOP, point to 'significant evidence' of Russian collusion
© Greg Nash
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say Republicans prematurely closed the panel’s investigation into Russian interference despite what they say is “significant evidence” of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
 
“There is significant evidence and much of it in the public domain on the issue of collusion,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Sunday shows preview: Questions linger over Trump-Putin summit Obama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said during a press conference on Tuesday flanked by other Democrats on the panel. 
 

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"Sadly, from a very early point in the investigation, the chairman made the decision that his mission was not to find out what Russia did, not to determine the role of U.S. persons, but rather to endeavor to distract the public, to put the government on trial," Schiff said.

Schiff accused Republicans of setting a dangerous precedent that could kneecap future committees' efforts to get witnesses from the executive branch. Other Democrats also voiced concerns over how those inquiries may go given the decision to end the current probe.

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesMembers of Congress weigh in on the great 4th of July debate: Hot dogs or hamburgers Dem rep: Nunes actions make US ‘profoundly less safe’ Dems urge Trump to reinstate top cyber post MORE (D-Conn.) said Republicans created “lasting damage” for other congressional committees by failing to hold witnesses who declined to answer certain questions accountable, affording them "historically broad and unprecedented exemptions" in their questioning.

Other lawmakers, such as Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellThe Hill's 12:30 Report — NYT says Cohen taped Trump on payments | Trump floats tariffs on all Chinese imports | Russia open to new summit House Dem on inviting Putin to US: ‘He shouldn’t be in our country’ Dem on Putin coming to US: 'You don't invite the burglar to dinner' MORE (D-Calif.), warned that Republicans' decision to end the probe sends the signal to Russia and other countries that they can interfere in U.S. affairs going forward. 

The backlash from Democrats comes after Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayHuawei: FCC proposal would hurt poor, rural communities Senate panel upholds finding that Russia backed Trump, contradicting House Trump era ramps up tech worker revolt MORE (Texas), the senior Republican leading the Russia probe, announced on Monday that the committee had concluded the interview portion of their investigation and would be moving on to writing a report of their findings. A draft copy of the GOP report denied any evidence of collusion.

While they did agree largely with the intelligence community's assessment that Russians sought to sow discord in the U.S., Republicans on the panel disagreed with the view that Russia explicitly sought to help President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE’s campaign.

“Sadly it is little more than another Nunes memo in long form,” Schiff said, referring to Nunes’s controversial decision to release a declassified memo authored by his staff that outlined allegations of surveillance abuse.  

“It cherrypicks some intelligence facts and ignores a whole host of others," Schiff said. "It misleadingly characterizes events, and ... tells a story that couldn’t be better written if it was written in the White House itself. It is not a serious work, but then again it wasn’t designed to be.”

In a 21-page document billed as a status update, Intelligence Committee Democrats laid out a swath of "outstanding" lines of inquiry that they say Republicans either shortchanged or failed to pursue entirely. 

Among those neglected areas, Democrats say, are Trump's finances — something the president has long billed as a red line in inquiries into election meddling. 

Citing "credible allegations as to the use of Trump properties to launder money by Russian oligarchs, criminals, and regime cronies," Democrats called for an investigation into whether "Trump’s financial exposure via Deutsche Bank or other private loans constitute a point of leverage that Russia may have exploited and may still be using."

Another area Democrats say was not fully investigated was the Trump campaign's knowledge of the hack of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House protests extend into sixth day despite rain Clinton: US is 'losing friends and allies' under Trump Justice Dept releases surveillance applications for former Trump aide MORE's former campaign chairman John Podesta, and the circumstances surrounding the strategic release of those emails in the month before the 2016 election.

"Did the Trump campaign receive advanced knowledge of or access to stolen information; did the stolen documents inform any of their campaign activity, including voter persuasion and targeting; and what was the chain of custody of the hacked and stolen emails that were then weaponized and strategically released?" Democrats question.  

Trump has repeatedly and consistently denied any coordination with Russia related to its election interference campaign. 

The 21-page document also lists a series of potential witnesses Democrats say should have been called and were not, as well as others who should have been compelled to reappear and address questions left unanswered. 

Former chief of staff Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusThe Memo: Putin furor sparks new questions on Kelly’s future Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate rips his own parents for donations to Dems Wisconsin GOP Senate hopeful hit by ad highlighting Democratic past MORE, former White House spokesman Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerTrump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Megyn Kelly grills Sean Spicer over whether he stands by past White House claims Spicer: I believe Trump is a truthful person MORE, former deputy national security adviser KT McFarland and current White House policy advisor Stephen Miller are among the names on that list.

Democrats have complained that Republicans have allowed witnesses to set the parameters of their testimony at the behest of the White House, a characterization disputed by Conaway.

Republicans argue that they are winding down an investigation in which they extensively interviewed and reviewed key documents.

Updated at 8:35 p.m.