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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.
 
 

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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 HimesHouse panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps COVID-19 could complicate Pelosi's path to Speaker next year Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins 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 SwalwellPersonal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot Trump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting Meghan McCain calls on Gaetz to resign 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 ConawayEx-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm Thompson named top Republican on Agriculture Bottom line 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 TrumpGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal GOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns 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 ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' 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 PriebusBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Governor races to test COVID-19 response, Trump influence Ex-Trump chief of staff Priebus mulling Wisconsin governor bid MORE, former White House spokesman Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerOvernight Health Care: CDC director calls on Michigan to 'close things down' amid surge in cases | Regeneron says antibody therapy prevents COVID-19 infections The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Biden moves vaccine eligibility by almost two weeks Easter Bunny pays surprise visit to White House briefing room 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.