Himes blasts GOP intelligence panel’s final report on Russia probe

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Rep. Jim Himes during one of his CNN appearances.

Washington – While Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee issued a final report Friday on a year-long probe into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections that generally clears the Trump campaign of any wrongdoing, Rep. Jim Himes and other Democrats on the panel say they will continue the investigation.

“We will continue working to bring light to Russia’s attacks on the foundations of our democracy and identifying the steps necessary to prevent further interference,” said Himes, D-4th District, in a statement.

While Democrats on the panel vow to keep digging, their resources will be constrained and they won’t have the ability to subpoena key witnesses or documents.

Himes called the 253-page GOP report “highly redacted” and “biased,” and said it “is not an accurate or helpful representation of the work the Intelligence Committee engaged in for more than a year and does not correctly portray the harm done to the American people by the investigation’s premature cessation.”

Besides generally clearing President Donald Trump and his campaign of any wrongdoing, the report accuses the intelligence community of “significant intelligence tradecraft failings.”

It is also critical of the FBI and suggests Russia’s main goal in meddling in the election was to sow discord, not help Trump win the White House.

The report said there was no collusion between the Russians and Trump campaign officials, but detailed contacts between campaign official and Russians or Russian intermediaries.

Himes distributed a dissenting report written by Intelligence Committee Democrats that said GOP members of the intelligence panel, headed by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., “have engaged in a systematic effort to muddy the waters, and to deflect attention away from the President, most recklessly in their assault on the central pillars of the rule of law.”

“Their report, as with their overall conduct of the investigation, is unworthy of this Committee, the House of Representatives, and most importantly, the American people, who are now left to try to discern what is true and what is not,” the Democratic report said.

The dissenting report said Republicans on the intelligence panel “refused to seek testimony from dozens of witnesses proposed by the minority,” and failed to call in “a significant number of current and former U.S. government officials, as well as outside experts, who could have shed light on Russia’s active measures campaign, the U.S. government’s response under the Obama and Trump administrations, and policy and legislative recommendations to protect the United States and our elections infrastructure moving forward.”

Democrats on the panel also criticized the GOP’s dismissal of the conclusion of a report written by U.S. intelligence officers called the Intelligence Community Assessment that said Russia “aspired to help [Trump’s] election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

“The report claims that the Intelligence Committee ‘reviewed every piece of relevant evidence provided to us and interviewed every witness we assessed would substantively contribute to the agreed-upon bipartisan scope of the investigation.’ This is untrue,” Himes said.

He said “there remain large quantities of evidence and numerous witnesses that were not appropriately reviewed by the committee” and the appearance of others “constituted nothing more than stonewalling and obfuscation.”

Himes also said the committee should have coordinated with special counsel Robert Mueller on interviews with witnesses who have agreed to cooperate.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the final report “a whitewash – without any plausible pretense of truth-telling.”

“It reeks of raw partisan politics,” Blumenthal said. “It offers the president a fig leaf fantasy of protection against the reality of wrongdoing. It conflates, contorts and conceals the facts at every critical turn. It would be a joke, if it were not such a deadly threat to our democracy.”

The Republicans’ final report said those in the campaign with relationships with Russians were “peripheral figures” and not “in a position to influence Trump or his campaign.”

The report also said former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks testified that news accounts about former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s work for Ukrainian strongman and Russian ally Viktor Yanukovych sped Manafort’s firing from the campaign.

“Trump had made a decision to make a change ln leadership on the campaign outside of Paul’s issues that were being publicly reported,” but those issues “certainly contributed to expediting and intensifying the way in which his role changed, and then ultimately he was fired at the end of that week,” the report quoted Hicks as saying. “Trump directed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to ensure Manafort departed the campaign on August 19, which he did.”

Trump on Friday tweeted that the final report has vindicated him.

“Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released,” the president tweeted. “No evidence’ that the Trump Campaign ‘colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia,’ ” Trump wrote. “Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!”

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