House GOP ending Russia probe, says no collusion found

The House Intelligence Committee is shutting down its contentious investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the top Republican leading the probe announced on Monday.

The committee will interview no more witnesses and Republicans are in the process of preparing their final report, 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 (R-Texas) told reporters. A draft of that roughly 150-page report will be delivered to committee Democrats for review on Tuesday. 

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The draft document asserts that there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, the most politically charged question examined by the committee.

It will also contradict an official U.S. intelligence community assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin showed a “preference” for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE during the race — another assertion that Trump has disputed.

“We found no evidence of collusion,” Conaway said Monday. “We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings — but only Tom Clancy could take this series of inadvertent contacts, meetings, whatever, and weave that into some sort of a spy thriller that could go out there.”

Further, he said, “we couldn’t establish the same conclusion that the CIA did that [the Russians] specifically wanted to help Trump.”

Trump applauded the committee's findings on Twitter:

The announcement is unlikely to herald any bipartisan conclusion to the central questions in an investigation that for more than a year has been mired in investigatory offshoots, leaks and bitter fighting between committee members. 

The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffRussians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit Schiff expects Trump to take 'disastrous approach' on meddling in meeting with Putin Sunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin MORE (Calif.), in a blistering statement called the end of the probe a "tragic milestone" and a "capitulation to the executive branch."

"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," Schiff wrote.

Schiff in his statement emphatically rejected the GOP's assertion that the Russians did not seek to help Trump's campaign, saying the evidence "is clear and overwhelming that the Intelligence Community Assessment was correct."

"If the Russians do have leverage over the President of the United States, the Majority has simply decided it would rather not know," he said.

Republicans have said for months that they were ready to wind down the investigation, having found no evidence of collusion. Democrats paint a different picture, warning that Republicans are protecting the president by failing to conduct a serious investigation.

Conaway said Monday that he expects Democrats to make “extensive changes” to the draft report Republicans will deliver on Tuesday. Lawmakers from both parties have long said that Democrats would likely issue their own report. 

The GOP report will confirm a broad-based Russian active measures campaign designed to sow discord during the 2016 presidential race, as well as a “lackluster” pre-election response to that campaign.

It will also include “how anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the [Hillary] Clinton campaign,” an apparent reference to the controversial dossier of opposition research on Trump compiled in part by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by the research firm Fusion GPS.

“We will say that there was an attempt to use foreign sources with respect to the Clinton campaign,” Conaway said. 

“It was clear that there was — at least Steele and however much he talked and didn’t talk to Russians — that’s foreigners and that information was paid for by the [Democratic National Committee] and the Clinton campaign,” Conaway said, adding, “I don’t have any direct evidence that they knew about it.”

The GOP report will also include a section covering what the committee believes were criminal leaks related to the dossier, though Conaway said the committee lacked the evidence to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

The draft report also includes recommendations for both Congress and the executive branch, centered on election security, government response to cyberattacks and support to European allies.

The investigation, launched in January 2017, is coming to a close after lawmakers reviewed more than 300,000 documents and interviewed 73 witnesses, including former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr. mocks the 'resistance' over 'baby blimp' in London Mueller: Russian officers launched leaks website in June 2016 Teen who had his MAGA hat stolen gets one signed by Trump MORE and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTenants in rent-controlled Kushner Cos. buildings say they were pushed out: report Mexico's president presses Pompeo on reuniting migrant families Hillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs MORE.

As initially conceived, the probe was tasked with four investigatory pillars, including the Russian interference effort, the government’s response to that campaign, leaks of classified information related to those matters and any ties between Russia and “individuals associated with political campaigns.”

Despite regular outbreaks of internecine fighting, the investigation has produced one of the most significant public developments in the Russia saga to date: It was at a public committee hearing that then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI confidence in leaders sank after Comey was fired: report Ex-GOP lawmaker: Strzok hearing 'was a humiliating day' for Republicans Ignore the spin — still no evidence of Trump collusion MORE revealed that the bureau was investigating the matter.

It was also the genesis of an ongoing GOP investigation, spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate House panel advances bill that would temporarily halt ObamaCare's employer mandate Nunes leaves in middle of hearing following questions on Russia probe MORE (R-Calif.), into what some House Republicans say were gross abuses of U.S. surveillance authorities. 

In a dramatic moment, Nunes stepped back from leading the investigation amidst a now-closed Ethics Committee investigation into whether he revealed classified information during an impromptu press conference last spring.

It was then that Conaway took over the investigation, though Democrats have complained that Nunes continued to assert his authority behind the scenes. Nunes has insisted the Ethics investigation, which cleared him of any wrongdoing, was a political sham.

Relations on the panel were further rocked earlier this year when committee Republicans forced the publication of a formerly classified memo prepared by Nunes’s staff alleging surveillance abuses, over the objections of both Democrats and the FBI.

Although Democrats were later permitted to release their own countermemo, they have since called on Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders jockey for affection of House conservatives Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record MORE (R-Wis.) to remove Nunes from his post as chairman.

Committee Republicans have said the investigations into surveillance abuses are separate from the Russia probe. Those reviews are ongoing, Conaway said Monday.

The panel has also been split by disputes over subpoenaing witnesses. 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 on Monday.

“Broad statement, you use subpoenas when you think you can actually get something from them, and we’re not particularly confident that the subpoena process will get us any more than we had,” he said. “We also think we have the evidence we need to come to the conclusions we’ve come to.”

The committee will not pursue steps to enforce the subpoena of Bannon, who frustrated both Republicans and Democrats by refusing to answer questions outside of the 25 scripted by the White House during a pair of interviews this year.

The raucous investigation in the House has been dramatically different from a parallel probe underway in the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has largely kept its work under wraps and whose leaders have presented a united front.

The Senate panel’s work is ongoing. Its first product, a report on election security, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Conaway on Monday declined to set a timeline for the public release of the House report, which must first be sent back to the intelligence community to be scrubbed for classified information.

He said the report would not be shared with the Senate Intelligence Committee before publication.