By Mollie Hemingway – The Federalist
A year after Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was no evidence President Trump colluded with Russians to steal the 2016 election, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its fourth of five reports in a slow-moving and muted investigation into the same matter. While the committee asserted in July 2018 that it agreed with a disputed Obama-era finding on Russia’s motivation for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, its highly redacted report on the intelligence community’s January 2017 claim was finally released Tuesday morning.
The report is yet another reminder of how the committee helped Democrats and other critics of President Donald Trump perpetuate the now-debunked theory that Trump was a secret Russian agent. The Senate’s Intelligence Committee is ostensibly chaired by Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who is currently avoiding questions about why he dumped stocks after receiving private briefings about coronavirus threats.
In practice, the committee has largely been run by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. The committee’s major and perhaps only contribution to the Russia collusion storyline was to employ a high-level staffer tasked with handling classified information who was convicted of lying to the FBI about leaks of classified information to reporters he was having affairs with. Both Burr and Warner begged a judge to be lenient with their former employee. The judge sentenced him to two months in prison.
Tuesday’s committee report is at odds with the findings of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (at least when it was under the leadership of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.), which revealed significant malfeasance in how the intelligence community conducted its Russia collusion investigation beginning in 2016.
A sprawling year-and-a-half investigation by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General corroborated all the major findings of the HPSCI report, including that intelligence community officials lied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, fabricated and doctored evidence in support of applications to spy on American citizens who volunteered for the Trump campaign, and even colluded with agents of sanctioned Russian oligarchs in their attempt to take down Trump. Here are those HPSCI reports on Russian active measures and the DOJ’s abuse of the FISA process.
What We Know
For years, the country was gripped by selectively leaked pieces of information written in such a manner as to suggest that Trump was a traitor who colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Grand theories of “collusion” with Russia formed a major portion of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and post-election strategy, and were echoed by a sympathetic media as well as some “NeverTrump” Republican officials and pundits.
An intelligence community assessment leaked to the Washington Post in December 2016 added fuel to the fire. An assessment was publicly released on January 6, 2017, at the same time that high-level Obama intelligence officials were leaking to CNN and other credulous media outlets that they had reasonable confidence in a dossier that detailed Trump’s secret and extensive collusion with Russia.
Further criminal leaks, such as information about what turned out to be a perfectly benign phone call between the incoming national security advisor and a Russian diplomat, created even more of a firestorm. The hysteria led, among other things, to a sprawling special counsel probe that seriously damaged the Trump administration’s ability to govern, dangerously hampered foreign policy, and resulted in no finding of collusion by any single American, much less anyone associated with the Trump campaign, much less Trump himself.
HPSCI’s Russia report questioned not the finding so much as the the tradecraft used for the part of the intelligence community assessment related to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic intentions. The ICA said Putin “aspired to help” Trump by “discrediting Secretary Clinton.”
Russia’s long-practiced election interference manifested in 2016 with a social media operation that insulted both Trump and Clinton and was mostly about sowing division along racial and political lines. The IC assessment claiming love of Trump motivated the operation was one of the keys to launching damaging investigations against him. HPSCI found that while most of the intelligence community’s analysis held up to scrutiny, “judgments on Putin’s strategic intentions did not employ proper analytic tradecraft.”
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