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 SchiffCummings on 'Adam Schitt': 'Mr. President, please do not do that' Dem rep on Trump 'Adam Schitt' tweet: 'I feel like I'm back in seventh grade' The Hill's Morning Report — GOP victorious in Florida while Dems say `Sunbelt strategy’ looks bright for 2020 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 HimesOcasio-Cortez: 'I was stopped because it was assumed I was an intern' Dem rep: Trump 'doesn't understand how the government works' Dem leadership hopefuls dole out millions in campaign cash 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 - New White House threat to Acosta's press pass | Trump defends criticism of McRaven | Hamilton biographer to headline WHCA dinner Likely 2020 Dem gives thanks to voters who 'did nothing less than save America' Swalwell defends Pelosi: We need her 'on the mound' 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 ConawayMcCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote House GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses Lawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects 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 TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation 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 ClintonPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation Questions grow about FBI vetting of Christopher Steele’s Russia expertise 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 PriebusGOP's Grassley admonishes Trump on Kelly comments  Trump chief of staff clashes with first lady, may be on way out: NBC Scaramucci uses dance moves to interpret time working at White House MORE, former White House spokesman Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerEx-Trump staffer’s book describes 'Team of Vipers’ Michelle Obama: ‘I could tell’ if Trump or Obama had larger inauguration crowd Spicer: SNL head Lorne Michaels should be fired over segment mocking veteran 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.