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House panel releases long-awaited transcripts from Russia probe

The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released the long-delayed transcripts related to the GOP-led investigation by the panel into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The committee released 57 transcript interviews from 2017-2018 that reveal what was said behind closed doors as lawmakers sought to determine whether members of the Trump campaign and Russia coordinated to tip the scales of the election. While the committee has already released a report on its findings from the investigation, the transcripts have since been tied up in a classification review.

While former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE ultimately did not find evidence over the course of his own investigation of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, Democrats and Republicans on the committee were divided over the testimonies they received.

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin MORE (D-Calif.) asserted that the transcripts proved that Russia sought to hurt then-candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Monica Lewinsky responds to viral HBO intern's mistake: 'It gets better' Virginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP MORE’s campaign and help candidate Donald Trump — a point GOP lawmakers on the panel contested.

“Despite the many barriers put in our way by the then-Republican Majority, and attempts by some key witnesses to lie to us and obstruct our investigation, the transcripts that we are releasing today show precisely what Special Counsel Robert Mueller also revealed: That the Trump campaign, and Donald Trump himself, invited illicit Russian help, made full use of that help, and then lied and obstructed the investigations in order to cover up this misconduct,” Schiff said in a statement.

The transcripts detail interviews with a number of current and former Trump administration officials and Trump allies, including former chief strategist Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin Bannon'So interesting': Trump pitched on idea to run for House, become Speaker Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Hillicon Valley: Parler's return to Apple store poses new challenges | Biden revokes Trump-era order targeting shield for website operators MORE, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 The Israel-Hamas ceasefire is holding — what's next? Eric Trump buys .2M home near father's golf club in Florida MORE, former campaign aide Corey LewandowskiCorey LewandowskiPoll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Lewandowski says Trump has not spoken to him about being reinstated Sunday shows preview: Infrastructure expected to dominate as talks continue to drag MORE, and former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer Trump officials including Fiona Hill helped prepare Biden for Putin summit: report Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Experts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid MORE

The interviews also include those with top law enforcement and intelligence officials from the Obama administration, including former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperDomestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack MORE and former deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: I never thought that I'd be saying, 'Yeah, go Liz Cheney' ABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult MORE

Longtime Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneBannon asked Trump DOJ to reimburse his legal fees from Russia probe: report Feds charge members of Three Percenters militia group over Jan. 6 attack Biden's anti-corruption memo is good news — and essential to US national security MORE’s transcript had already become public as a result of his criminal case. He was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and other charges last year in connection with Mueller’s investigation. 

The release of the transcripts comes roughly two years after the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee concluded its investigation into Russian interference, a probe that was marked by partisanship. Republicans on the committee notably broke with the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the election in part to help Trump win — an opinion that goes against Democrats on the panel, the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe and the intelligence community assessment.

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Schiff eventually revived and expanded the committee’s investigation after Democrats won control of the House at the end of 2018. 

Mueller concluded his investigation in March 2019, finding that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in “sweeping and systematic fashion.” While Mueller found that Trump’s campaign welcomed Russia’s release of hacked information, the special counsel did not find evidence to charge a conspiracy between the Kremlin and the campaign. Mueller also did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed the investigation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference was markedly bipartisan, with the committee concluding that Russia interfered with the goal of assisting the Trump campaign. The Senate panel has released four volumes of its investigation, with a fifth on counterintelligence measures still to come. 

The transcripts show that Coats spoke frankly about his conversations with Trump during his June 2017 interview. He said the president on a number of occasions raised the fact that he believed his job had been “compromised” by the assertion he colluded with the Russians. 

“He has each time said: I haven't colluded with the Russians, but it is really hampering what I am trying to do. lt is saturating the news,” Coats told the panel. 

Coats at one point described a conversation he had with Trump, who vowed against the allegations that he slept with Russian prostitutes as laid out in the so-called Steele dossier — a compilation of memos detailing allegations about Trump’s contacts with Russia.

"I swear to you on the soul of my son, I had nothing to do with that prostitution. And for them to take me aside and raise that issue and then have it leaked,” Coats recalled the president telling him. 

"He said, ‘how would you like it if -- how do you go home and talk to your wife when it is plastered all over the place that you were using prostitutes in Russia and you are having your family hear that and having your son hear that?’ ... He was just really, really impacted," he added.

Coats also told the committee that Trump asked him if he could publicly state that there was no collusion, and that he didn’t believe it was appropriate. 

“I guess he was thinking: Look, you are the Director of DNl. He was probably in his mind thinking: Hey, you are -- if anybody knows what is going on in intelligence, from an intelligence standpoint, you must be, you say it. I did not think it was appropriate to do that,” Coats said. 

Coats went on to say that he did not feel influenced in his conversations with Trump but said that he was “uncomfortable at times because I didn't think he should be asking me could I say something publicly.” He said he later expressed frustration with his staff at Trump’s request that he make a public statement about there being no collusion.

Clapper told the committee he never saw any “direct empirical evidence” that the Trump campaign or someone part of it was plotting or conspiring with the Russians to meddle in the election.

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Clapper also said he believed Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine It's well past time for strategic defenses and counterpunches on cybersecurity MORE was “absolutely” successful in his effort to undermine the credibility of the U.S. election process.

Clapper described the Russian objectives as evolving from sowing discord to harming Clinton and said their approach shifted once they saw Trump to be a serious candidate.

“Their objectives evolved. First, sow discord. Tremendous animus towards Mrs. Clinton. And as things evolved, and when it became evident that President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE was a serious candidate, then I think their approach evolved as well,” Clapper said in his July 2017 interview. 

Much of the news in the transcripts had either been leaked or previously revealed, whether in interviews or court hearings. 

Both Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence panel voted unanimously in 2018 to make the transcripts available to the public, but they were delayed during a classification review.

"[I]t is long past time that these are released,” acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell said in a statement, following their release.

Updated at 7:50 p.m.