Connect with us

Politics

Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia

Published

on

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

But investigators disagree along party lines when it comes to the implications of a pattern of contacts they have documented between Trump associates and Russians — contacts that occurred before, during and after Russian intelligence operatives were seeking to help Trump by leaking hacked Democratic emails and attacking his opponent on social media.

“If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week in an interview with CBS News.

Burr was careful to note that more facts may yet be uncovered, but he also made clear that the investigation was nearing an end.

“We know we’re getting to the bottom of the barrel because there’re not new questions that we’re searching for answers to,” Burr said.

Democratic Senate investigators who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity did not dispute Burr’s characterizations, but said they lacked context.

“We were never going find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,” one Democratic aide said.

The series of contacts between Trump’s associates, his campaign officials, his children and various Russians suggest a campaign willing to accept help from a foreign adversary, the Democrats say.

By many counts, Trump and his associates had more than 100 contacts with Russians before the January 2017 presidential inauguration.

“Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians,” one Democratic Senate investigator said. “Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.”

Those facts are beyond dispute. But they also have been known for some time — and have not seemed to change Trump’s political standing.

Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.

House Republicans announced last year they had found no evidence of collusion, but their report came under immediate criticism as a highly partisan product that excluded Democrats. Now in power, House Democrats recently announced an expanded probe that will go beyond the 2016 election to examine whether any foreign government has undue financial influence on Trump or his family. And New York prosecutors are pursuing their own criminal inquiry related to hush money payments to women. The investigations into Donald Trump, therefore, are far from over.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been conducting the sole bipartisan inquiry, led by Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia. The committee has sifted through some 300,000 documents, investigators tell NBC News, including classified intelligence shedding light on how the Russians communicated about their covert operation to interfere in the 2016 election.

U.S. intelligence agencies assess that the operation began as an effort to sow chaos and morphed into a plan to help Trump win. It included the hacking and leaking of embarrassing Democratic emails and the use of bots, trolls and fake accounts on social media to boost Trump, criticize Democrat Hillary Clinton and exacerbate political differences.

Predictably, Burr’s comments led Trump to tweet that he had been fully vindicated, which is not the case.

“Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA!” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Is anybody really surprised by this?”

Democratic Senate investigators say it may take them six or seven months to craft their final report once they are done with witness interviews. They say they have uncovered facts yet to be made public, and that they hope to make Americans more fully aware of the extent to which the Russians manipulated the U.S. presidential election with the help of some Trump officials, witting or unwitting.

The report, Democrats say, will not be good for Trump.

But they also made clear they haven’t found proof of their worst fear: That the president formed a corrupt pact with Russia to offer sanctions relief or other favorable treatment in return for Russian help in the election.

After it recently emerged that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with a man the FBI says is linked to Russian intelligence, Warner called that the most persuasive evidence yet of coordination.

“This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion,” he said on CNN.

No evidence has emerged, however, linking the transfer of polling data to Trump. Also unclear in court documents is Manafort’s motive for sharing the information. Facing more than a decade in prison for bank and tax fraud, he has not been accused by Mueller of any crimes related to the 2016 election.

Burr, in the CBS interview, said the motivations behind the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians were in some cases impossible to discern.

“There’s an awful lot of connections of all these people,” he said. “They may not be connections that are tied to 2016 elections in the United States, but just the sheer fact that they have a relationship — it may be business. It may be Russian intelligence. It may be they’re all on the payroll of Oleg Deripaska,” he added, referring to a Russian oligarch tied to Putin who had business dealings with Manafort.

The final Senate report may not reach a conclusion on whether the contacts added up to collusion or coordination with Russia, Burr said.

Democrats told NBC News that’s a distinct possibility.

“What I’m telling you is that I’m going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people,” Burr told CBS. “And you’ll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that’s collusion.”



Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Politics

Trump failed at obstruction because his aides refused to carry out orders, Mueller finds

Published

on

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

 / Updated 

By Adam Edelman

Had President Donald Trump been left to his own devices, the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report released Thursday would have likely been far more damning for him.

Instead, the Mueller report makes clear, Trump’s “efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful” — but only “largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

Among the figures referred to by Mueller who refused Trump’s wishes were then-White House counsel Don McGahn, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” Mueller’s report said.

“The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels,” the report continued. “These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General ‘s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”

Trump, the report outlined, directed McGahn to have Mueller removed as special counsel. McGahn refused, and even prepared to quit over the matter. The report explained that “McGahn ultimately did not quit and the President did not follow up with McGahn on his request to have the Special Counsel removed” — putting on hold an outcome that would likely have opened Trump up to a harsher assessment from Mueller.

Furthermore, in January 2018, after The New York Times reported that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, Trump “sought to have McGahn deny that he had been directed to remove the Special Counsel,” the Mueller report stated.

But, the report said, “each time he was approached, McGahn responded that he would not refuse the press accounts because they were accurate.”

A page from the Mueller report.

In his report, Mueller also writes that Trump, after being rebuffed by McGahn, quickly directed Lewandowski “to tell the Attorney General to limit the scope of the Russia investigation to prospective election-interference only.”

According to the report, Trump dictated a message to Lewandowski in June 2017 that he wanted passed on to Sessions. The note said that Sessions should give a speech announcing he would limit the jurisdiction of the special counsel.

But Lewandowski, Mueller wrote, “did not deliver the President’s message to Sessions.” Lewandowski scheduled a time to meet with Sessions to deliver the message, but Sessions canceled, and then Lewandowski had to leave Washington.

One mother later, Trump met with Lewandowski again and asked him if he had delivered the message to Sessions. Lewandowski said he would deliver the message “soon,” and after he left the meeting, he handed the note to Sessions’ chief of staff Rick Dearborn, and asked him to give it to Sessions. Dearborn told Mueller’s team that the note “definitely raised an eyebrow” and never followed through — again stifling another move that may have led to bigger legal trouble for Trump.

In addition, Comey didn’t end the investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, even though Trump had asked Comey in a one-on-one meeting to “see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Comey’s refusal to do so, Mueller noted, “ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI.”

At other times in the report, Mueller noted similar scenarios, including Trump’s attempt to get Sessions to “unrecuse himself,” Trump’s attempt to get Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to say publicly that no link existed between Trump and Russia, and Trump’s attempt to get then-Staff Secretary Rob Porter to reach out to Rachel Brand to discuss the possibility of installing her as a replacement for Sessions.

But in all of those instances, Trump’s directives were refused, helping Mueller reach a conclusion that, when it came to obstruction, Trump was largely untouchable.

“Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed,” Mueller wrote in the report.

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Brexit Party vs Labour Party: Who will win CRUNCH EU elections in MAJOR SIGN to MAY

Published

on

NIGEL Farage has seen a surge in support for his Brexit Party after only forming it in January. But will the Brexit Party win the EU elections ahead of Labour and the Conservatives in a major sign to Theresa May?

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

What the Mueller report says about Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Published

on

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

 / Updated 

By Elizabeth Chuck

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report contains plenty of new details about President Donald Trump’s actions before and after the 2016 election — but it also puts a spotlight on the family members he’s leaned heavily on during the campaign and his presidency.

Notably, the report contains revelations about a 2016 meeting between President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian envoy. It also provides details about how Ivanka Trump and other members of the president’s inner circle reacted after learning about eldest son Donald Trump Jr.’s emails setting up the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians; and it confirms correspondence between Donald Jr. and WikiLeaks about hacked Clinton campaign emails.

Jared Kushner

Among Kushner’s many appearances in the report is his and Flynn’s meeting with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York after the 2016 election. The New York Times and others reported that the meeting that November was about improving relations between the two countries, and they discussed establishing a secure line of communication with Russia.

Mueller’s report confirms those details and adds that the three also discussed U.S. policy toward Syria.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending