Cybersecurity

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

Greg Nash

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 Trump win the White House.

“We see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

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

{mosads}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 Clinton 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 Warner (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 Gowdy (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 Mueller 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 Rogers, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper earlier Wednesday.

The committee had also invited former FBI Director James Comey 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.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton James Clapper James Comey John Brennan Mark Warner Mike Rogers Richard Burr Robert Mueller Trey Gowdy
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