Divisions deepen as Mueller probe hits one year

Partisan divisions over the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election deepened Wednesday as new developments rippled across Capitol Hill.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R-Iowa) started the day with the release of more than 2,000 pages of transcripts of interviews with Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTrump pledges to look at 'both sides' on Pebble Mine Twitter limits Donald Trump Jr.'s account after sharing coronavirus disinformation South Dakota governor flew with Trump on Air Force One after being exposed to coronavirus: report MORE and other participants in a controversial 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer — a move that Democrats said signals an effort to prematurely end the committee’s investigation. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee said it agrees with the intelligence community’s assessment (ICA) in 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an interference campaign in the U.S. election to help President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE — breaking from its counterpart in the House.

And in the House, three members of the Freedom Caucus sent a letter to Trump asking him to intervene in their increasingly acrimonious battle with the Department of Justice over access to documents related to Mueller’s investigation.

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The three disputes came on the eve of the anniversary of the launch of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation into Russian interference — a probe that has roiled Capitol Hill, angered Trump and increasingly pitted lawmakers against one other.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling has long been stymied by partisan infighting between Grassley and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE (D-Calif.).

While Grassley said the Wednesday release of the transcripts was intended “to allow the public to know what we know,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPostal Service says it lost .2 billion over three-month period A three-trillion dollar stimulus, but Charles Schumer for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production MORE (D-N.Y.) denounced it as a “perfunctory” move aimed at ending “the committee’s on-again, off-again halting investigation.”

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee insisted that the “full story” of the Trump Tower meeting remains unknown to them and that the probe has been hindered by “the lack of bipartisan agreement on what to investigate.”

In the House, meanwhile, Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet On The Money: Five takeaways from the July jobs report Overnight Health Care: Trump to take executive action after coronavirus talks collapse | Vaccine official says he'd resign if pressured politically MORE (R-N.C.), Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence Tucker Carlson calls Fauci a 'fraud' after tense hearing Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol MORE (R-Ohio) and Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election DeSantis: It's safe to hug with PPE on Police say man spat on child in restaurant and said 'you now have coronavirus' MORE (R-Fla.) wrote in a letter to Trump that the Justice Department “has obstructed Congressional oversight by refusing to supply necessary and relevant documents” and said Trump should order the department to provide the documents they are seeking.

Among the requests is access to a full, unredacted memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe MORE spelling out the scope of Mueller’s mandate — a highly sensitive document that could reveal exactly what the special counsel is after in his investigation.

Still, the most consequential release of the day was likely the joint statement from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review MORE (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (D-Va.), whose Russia investigation has remained on bipartisan footing. In the statement, Burr said the committee sees “no reason to dispute the conclusions” reached by the intelligence community under former President Obama.

“After a thorough review, our staff concluded that the ICA 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 ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Kanye West 'not denying' his campaign seeks to damage Biden MORE.”

The assessment, released in January 2017, has been a flashpoint in the partisan rancor surrounding the Russian influence campaign.

The intelligence community unanimously concluded that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election for three reasons: to undermine U.S. democracy, to damage the Democratic nominee, Clinton, and to help Trump win the White House. Putin developed “a clear preference” for Trump, according to the assessment.

But Trump has disputed Putin’s support for his candidacy, and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee in their final report said that the “tradecraft” behind that conclusion was faulty.

The statement from Burr and Warner — which came at the conclusion of a closed hearing with the senior Obama officials who signed off on the original document — signals that the final report on their investigation into Russian meddling will likely differ from the one produced by their colleagues in the House.

The lower chamber largely agreed with the intelligence community’s assessment, taking issue only with the conclusion about Putin’s preference, and Burr on Wednesday disputed the notion that the Senate panel’s conclusions were “dramatically different.”

“Today, the only thing that we have acknowledged is that the ICA was accurate,” he told reporters. “When we come out with our final report, we’ll probably cover any places that we have questions or discrepancies with what the ICA might have stated.”

But, he continued, “That’s very different than what the House did.”

“The House basically said, we disagree with the ICA because we found nothing that contributed to supporting Donald Trump. The question is, is working against Hillary Clinton the same thing as working for Donald Trump?”

Burr argued that it would have been impossible for Putin to intervene in support of Trump before Trump had jumped into the presidential race, noting, “When you get to where the [Democratic National Committee] was hacked, he wasn’t even in the top three.”

House Republicans ended their investigation into Russia’s election meddling last month, over the objections of Democrats who said that they had soft-pedaled the inquiry. The panel ultimately produced two separate sets of conclusions, including the Republican assertion that analysts did not meet the proper standards to judge Putin’s preference.

Most committee Republicans were careful to say that they hadn’t assessed whether the intelligence community’s underlying claim — that Putin developed a “clear preference” for Trump — was correct. What the panel took issue with was the evidence they used to reach that conclusion.

“I don’t know what Vladimir Putin’s opinion was,” Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Texas Democrats plan 7-figure ad buy to turn state blue Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House MORE (R-Texas), a former CIA officer, told Fox News at the time. “The intelligence that was used to make that assessment was substandard and it went through a very atypical process.”

House Intelligence Republicans are expected to issue a second report centered solely on the intelligence community assessment, although it is unclear how much of that document will be made public, given the classified nature of the underlying information.

The conclusion that Putin sought to help Trump win the White House has captivated Washington for more than a year and has fueled endless speculation about whether Moscow was coordinating its broader influence efforts with the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, Mueller is pressing forward with his investigation, which has already yielded guilty pleas from several individuals in Trump’s orbit — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn — and indictments of 13 Russians accused in the elaborate disinformation plot.

Trump has raged against the investigation, repeatedly saying that there was “no collusion” and casting Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch hunt.” Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), the newest member of Trump’s legal team, suggested this week that the president and his allies would look to use the anniversary of Mueller’s probe to step up their attacks on the investigation.

“We are going to try as best we can to put the message out there that it has been a year, there has been no evidence presented of collusion or obstruction, and it is about time for them to end the investigation,” Giuliani told Bloomberg.

Trump allies on Capitol Hill have echoed that assessment. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Nunes opponent pins hopes on shifting demographics in uphill battle MORE (R-Calif.) told Fox News this week that there was never any “credible evidence or intelligence” to open the original counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will be closely watched as it moves into the final months of its investigation.

Burr told reporters this month that he expects his panel to wrap up its probe in August, but investigators have not yet finished interviewing witnesses.

The committee will not address the question of collusion until it issues its final report.