WASHINGTON, U.S. - On Monday, a dramatic twist emerged in the ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 Presidential election.
The investigation, that is being led by multiple agencies has gripped the nation for over a year now, after American intelligence agencies concluded in January last year that Russia had interfered with the election.
On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Republicans declared that they have found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The investigation that was being lead by Representative Michael Conaway of Texas is said to have however confirmed Russian interference.
Conaway said in a statement on Monday that committee Republicans agreed with the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered with the election, but that they broke with the agencies on one crucial point: that the Russians had favored Trump’s candidacy.
He said, “The bottom line: The Russians did commit active measures against our election in ’16, and we think they will do that in the future.”
However, he pointed out, “We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.”
This was one of the two bipartisan investigations into the alleged collusion on Capitol Hill.
However, its abrupt end is likely to provoke sharp objections from committee Democrats, who have been warning Republicans not to close the matter.
Meanwhile, the closure of the investigation by Republicans comes at a time when new evidence emerged as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the same topic.
Mueller is pursuing new lines of inquiry related to the case that have been left largely unexplored by the committee.
Overall however, the decision by the committee is set to come as a brief victory for Trump, as the decision will prove to be a convenient talking point even before Mueller interviews the president and possibly other key witnesses.
During a briefing with reporters on Monday afternoon, Conaway said, “We found no evidence of collusion. We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take these series of inadvertent contacts with each other, meetings, whatever, and weave that into some sort of a fiction and turn it into a page-turner, spy thriller.”
Conaway added that the committee would turn over a 150-page draft report to Democrats on Tuesday for review and comment.
This document, according to reports, includes over 25 recommendations related to election and cyber security, counterintelligence practices and campaign finance rules.
He added that the committee was preparing a separate, in-depth analysis of the intelligence community’s assessment too.
Now, apart from Mueller, there’s now only a single committee on Capitol Hill that is investigating the attack on American democracy full time.
According to Conaway, as part of its investigation, the panel interviewed over 70 witnesses and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of documents.
However, Democrats have argued that that effort has fallen well short of gathering all the evidence.
They added that important witnesses have not been interviewed, and records have not been subpoenaed, including bank documents and certain communications that are paramount to understanding the case.
On Thursday, the committee’s final interview took place with Trump’s onetime campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
Further, reports revealed that several other witnesses, who are thought to be central to the investigation never appeared before the panel.
These included Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his deputy, Rick Gates, Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and his campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
All four are currently under indictment by the special counsel.
Meanwhile, Conaway added on Monday that he hoped to work expeditiously with American intelligence agencies to declassify the report and make it public.
Adding that the committee would consider any significant new evidence that may emerge in the case in the future.