GOP-led panel absolves president of Russian Federation collusion

U.S. Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee on Friday concluded that they find "no evidence" of collusion between Russian Federation and the Donald Trump campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, evoking hails from the president and bitter criticism from Democrats.

The heavily redacted Republican report contains little new information about Russia's election interference or the Trump teams contacts with Russian Federation.

Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who is chairman of the committee, told reporters that he hoped a more transparent version of the report could be released later.

The committee found that there was "no evidence" of coordination between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

The Mueller investigation, he said, is "a witch hunt".

The committee's sharp partisan divide was illustrated by the counter-memos issued in February regarding the anti-Trump dossier that was used by Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department officials under President Obama to obtain a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign volunteer.

It criticised a meeting at Trump Tower in NY in June 2016 between a Kremlin-linked lawyer and three of Trump's top aides - his son Donald Jr; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort - after Trump Jr had been told a Russian government lawyer had incriminating information on Clinton.

The investigation began with bipartisan promise but ultimately succumbed to factional squabbling.

The report's conclusion is fiercely opposed by committee Democrats, who accused their Republican colleagues of playing "defense counsel" for the White House throughout the investigation.

Trump said he was "honored" by the report, arguing that it "forcefully" highlighted the need for an investigation into the Clinton campaign and Russian Federation.

Trump has adamantly insisted neither he nor his campaign colluded with the effort and has been resolute in his belief the Russian effort did not bolster his chances of winning. It also faulted the congressional investigators for failing to interview key witnesses and issue subpoenas to get crucial information.

Compiled by the committee's Republican-majority contingent, the report described Trump's associates as having several "ill advised" Russian contacts, however. The 253-page document is packed with details and assessments, but is also littered with redacted names and blacked-out passages. In addition to the House Intelligence Committee and Mueller's probe, the Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating the matter.

The House intel report, released over the objections of minority Democratic Party members, said the committee "found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government". Trump then turned to sanction Russian Federation from these findings.

Friday's heavily redacted report contained new surprises because a summary of the panel's conclusions was made public last month. In his absence, Conaway took over the probe.

The panel wrote that intelligence officials should immediately alert presidential candidates and Congress when they discover "legitimate" threats to a campaign. He said numerous blacked out details include information already public such as witness names and previously declassified information.

However, the report says that Moscow is still trying to interfere in elections.

President Trump chimed in on Twitter Friday morning as well. The panel also recommended the executive branch "crack down" on leaks by conducting polygraphs.

  • Marlene Weaver