After the Senate Intelligence Committee’s fifth and final report, Democrats still say collusion. Republicans still say no.
President Donald Trump’s friend and campaign advisor Roger Stone was in active discussion with Wikileaks to learn about future Russian information dumps and to help the Trump campaign, according to a new report from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released on Tuesday. Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort was also in conversations with Kremlin-backed oligarchs and Russian intelligence officers, and was trading inside campaign information in an effort to draw down his personal financial debt.
It’s a picture of a campaign willfully soliciting help from a hostile foreign power and providing valuable intelligence.
In the report, senators also criticize the FBI and the intelligence community for their handling of the affair and their willingness to put too much emphasis on the Steele Dossier.
Stone is a leading figure in the report, which alleges that he sought direct knowledge from Wikileaks as to what they might be releasing and did so at the “direction” of the Trump campaign. Unredacted portions of former FBI Director Robert Mueller’ investigation report, first reported by Buzzfeed in June, showed that Stone had known that Wikileaks would release damaging information about the DNC prior to the actual release of the information, but after public reports that Russian operatives had hacked the DNC.
“Trump and the Campaign believed that Stone had inside information and expressed satisfaction that Stone's information suggested more releases would be forthcoming,” said the committee members, in the report. The Trump campaign then used the leaks as part of their efforts to win the presidential election; they “created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following the release, and encouraged further leaks.”
In a new revelation, the committee also alleges that Stone actually drafted pro-Russia tweets for the Trump campaign. “Stone then emailed Jessica Macchia, one of Trump's assistants, eight draft tweets for Trump. Many of the draft tweets attacked [former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary] Clinton for her adversarial posture toward Russia and mentioned a new peace deal with Putin, such as ‘I want a new detente with Russia under Putin.’”
During the later Mueller investigation, Trump submitted written answers indicating that he had no recollection of any conversations with Stone on the timing of Wikileaks dumps. Mueller has been criticized for electing not to ask the president about that and other discrepancies in person. In June, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence for lying to congress.
While Roger Stone was soliciting further releases of hacked DNC data, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s “presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign,” according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Manafort dealt with several Kremlin-backed oligarchs and Konstantine Kilimnik, whom the report identifies for the first time as a “Russian intelligence officer.”
“Once Manafort's hiring was publicly announced, Manafort used Kilimnik to send private messages to three Ukrainian oligarchs-at least one of whom Manafort believed owed him money.”
In the report, senators criticize the FBI for the way it handled the DNC hack. he FBI, they said, “adhered to the letter of its procedures in dealings with the DNC, rather than recognizing the gap between those procedures and effective pursuit of its mission.” The FBI did not access DNC servers directly to collect evidence. While the FBI found that didn’t affect its investigation, or undermine the overwhelming consensus about Russian activity, it did have the effect of undermining the appearance of the investigation in the public eye, facilitating the “missing server” conspiracy theory.
The report also found that the FBI gave the Steele dossier “unjustified credence, based on an incomplete understanding of Steele's past reporting record.”
Lawmakers have had decidedly different reactions to the report, down party lines.
“Their report reaffirms Special Counsel Mueller’s finding that President Trump did not collude with Russia,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a statement stating that foreign influence operations are real and should concern Americans. “These serious threats need to unite our nation. We can’t afford for them to just further divide us. That is exactly what our adversaries want.”
The House intelligence committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement, “The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report affirms what we have all known for years: the Trump campaign had a breathtaking number of contacts with Russians tied to the Kremlin – at the same time that the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, was running an influence operation in the 2016 U.S. election designed to help Trump’s campaign.” He continued, “In short, the Trump campaign invited illicit Russian help, made full use of that help while Russia’s covert campaign was underway, and then lied and obstructed the investigations in order to cover up this misconduct. As several Senators noted in a separate conclusion: ‘This is what collusion looks like.’”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who also sits on the senate committee, said, “We found no evidence of ‘collusion.’ But we did find troubling actions by the FBI, particularly their willingness to rely on ‘Steele Dossier,’” Rubio declared.
Final volume of Senate Intelligence bipartisan & thorough investigation into Russian 2016 efforts is now publichttps://t.co/nuPuYifaa4— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 18, 2020
We found no evidence of “collusion”
But we did find troubling actions by the FBI, particularly their willingness to rely on “Steele Dossier” pic.twitter.com/S5hiKDgURB
Democratic congressman Don Beyer from Virginia called it more evidence of “a criminal conspiracy to use help from a foreign government to cheat in the 2016 election.”
Whether you call this pattern "collusion" or "cooperation" or something else, their actions represent a criminal conspiracy to use help from a foreign government to cheat in the 2016 election.— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) August 18, 2020
The Committee that investigated & issued this report was led all along by Republicans.