Senate panel breaks with House, says Russia sought to help Trump win in 2016

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they agree with the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE win the White House.

“We see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Tillis dodges primary challenge in NC MORE (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

“There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.”

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As part of its investigation into Russian meddling, the committee has for several months been reviewing the January 2017 assessment compiled by top U.S. intelligence officials.

The assessment found that Russia sought to interfere in the election for three reasons: to undermine U.S. democracy, to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE and to help Trump win the White House. 

On Wednesday, committee lawmakers met behind closed doors with former top intelligence officials who played a major role in compiling the assessment. In a joint statement following that meeting, Burr and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (D-Va.) signaled their agreement with the findings. 

“After a thorough review, our staff concluded that the [intelligence community assessment] conclusions were accurate and on point,” Warner said. “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.” 

Their statement represents a break with the Republican-led House investigation, which did not support the conclusion that Russia sought to help Trump win.

However, some Republicans on the House Intelligence panel signaled disagreement with some of the final conclusions. Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOur sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower GOP takes aim at Comey, Brennan House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report MORE (R-S.C.) said in March that it was “clear, based on the evidence, Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating Russia’s interference plot for more than a year. Burr told reporters earlier this month that he expects the inquiry to be completed by August. The House Intelligence Committee has also completed its own investigating.

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE is spearheading the federal investigation into Russian interference — including whether their was coordination between President Trump's campaign and Moscow. 

The Senate panel has already released its initial findings on Russian cyberattacks against U.S. voting infrastructure, finding that Moscow conducted an “unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign” against the nation’s digital election systems. 

The senators met with former National Security Agency Director Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersDem proposal to ban Pentagon funds for border wall survives House panel votes Dem proposal to ban Pentagon funds for border wall survives House panel votes House panel OKs space military branch MORE, former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen Brennan'Fox & Friends' co-host Kilmeade: Trump needs to 'clarify' comments on accepting foreign campaign intelligence Brennan slams Trump after ABC interview: Unfit to be president a 'gross understatement' Brennan slams Trump after ABC interview: Unfit to be president a 'gross understatement' MORE, and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperGeraldo Rivera: Comey, Clapper, Brennan should be 'quaking' in their boots over Barr investigation Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Comey: 'The FBI doesn't spy, the FBI investigates' MORE earlier Wednesday.

The committee had also invited former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFive memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Under Trump, our democracy is for sale MORE to attend, though he ultimately declined, citing a conflict. The former officials’ testimony is expected to inform the committee’s final report capping the Russia probe.

- Updated at 3:05 p.m.