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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) 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 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 SchiffGreenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (D-Calif.) asserted that the transcripts proved that Russia sought to hurt then-candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris lists out 'racist' actions by Trump in '60 minutes' interview: 'It all speaks for itself' Trump has list of top intelligence officials he'll fire if he wins reelection: report Clinton says most Republicans want to see Trump gone but can't say it publicly: report 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 BannonRatcliffe, Schiff battle over Biden emails, politicized intelligence Juan Williams: Trump's search for dirt falls flat Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerLincoln Project attorney on billboards lawsuit threat: 'Please peddle your scare tactics elsewhere' Biden pushes back on Trump: 'Crass' to go after political rival's children Lawyers for Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner threaten to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards MORE, former campaign aide Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiPence travel questioned after aides test positive Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to positive tests among Pence aides MORE, and former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAvoiding the 1876 scenario in November Democrat asks intelligence director if Trump's personal debt is security problem FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden 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 ClapperIs America ready to return to the Obama-Biden foreign policy? Why the Nobel Prize shows the US and China need to work together on gene editing Trump suggests Gold Star families could have infected him MORE and former deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesJudiciary Committee postpones hearing with McCabe on Russia probe This week: Senate kicks off Supreme Court fight Cindy McCain joins board of Biden's presidential transition team MORE

Longtime Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneTrump grants clemency to five nonviolent offenders Trump remarks put pressure on Barr DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump 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 PutinHow to avoid a space arms race Trust and transparency are necessary to make COVID-19 vaccine successful Biden: Countries that interfere in US elections will 'pay a price' 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 John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' 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.