That the House Intelligence Committee is just now releasing its official report on the Russia investigation may come as a surprise. After all, Donald Trump has been waving around a paper from that committee for weeks, referring to it frequently when he shouts “no collusion.” But that report was not the official work of the House committee. It was a deliberately partisan release rushed out by committee Republicans expressly to provide cover for Trump.
The actual committee report consists of 253 pages of mediocrity, equivocation and redactions. Lots, and lots of redactions. Just the list of people referenced in the report contains 24 names withheld from the public.
But just because this report is the “official” report of the whole committee, doesn’t mean that it isn’t rife with Republican talking points, some of which are completely ludicrous. For example:
Finding #20: Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted Paul Manafort on several charges, none of which relate to the allegations of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
That’s quite a “finding” considering that committee interviewed neither Mueller nor Manafort. And considering that it’s in complete disagreement with court documents filed by Mueller.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a “back channel” between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge.
But it’s far from the silliest finding in a profoundly silly report.
The House Republicans have been adamant in demanding they receive unredacted copies of documents related to FBI actives and the special counsel investigation, to the point of threatening to jail both Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And while those same Republicans spent yesterday praising EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for “transparency” rules that would require scientific studies to defy laws protecting medical privacy, they were much less concerned about redactions and transparency when it came to their own work.
Several pages consist of black squares, with whole pages kept from the public view. This makes it impossible to determine if there is anything more to the “findings” than talking points. For example, one finding is that the FBI reaction to Russian cyber intrusions was inadequate. But it’s impossible to know why, as not one word of the committee’s reasoning is revealed.
Other “findings” by the committee seem to not be supported by the evidence of the report itself. For example, the report finds that most of the conclusions of the intelligence community were right—except the conclusion that Russia was out to help Trump. Why wasn’t that right? The report says that the intelligence community used “bad tradecraft” in coming to that conclusion, because the House Republicans are apparently better intelligence agents than the intelligence agents.
The report also claims that the Steele dossier formed an “essential” part of the FISA application concerning Carter Page. However, the only evidence that the report provides is simply restating that “finding.” The report could not be more obtuse on this point, and others, if it simply included as evidence “Because we say so.”
Overall, the report is what was expected—a list of talking points created to support Trump, with little evidence that the committee made any significant effort to learn anything, and which contains what even in the report looks like a stretch to try and indict the Clinton campaign through friend of a friend of a friend actions resulting in an “indirect” connection between Trump and Russia.
Meanwhile on other points, the committee was a tiny bit less willing to connect dots.
Finding #32: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort attended a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower where they expected to receive but did not ultimately obtain-derogatory information on candidate Clinton from Russian sources.
The committee knows they didn’t get this information because … Donald Trump Jr. said so. And that’s apparently good enough. They didn’t interview Manafort. And they didn’t interview Veselnitskaya, though she had offered to appear.
The house conclusion … it was all totally innocent.
Despite the pretext for the meeting, every person with direct knowledge of what occurred confirmed that· there was no mention of derogatory or incriminating information directly relating to Hillary Clinton during the June 9 meeting.
The Russians had the stolen emails. The set up for the meeting was that they would get the stolen emails. But everyone who was there said it was all about adoptions—so the committee happily moved on to talking about how someone hired Fusion, who hired Steele, who talked to a Russian, and gave that information back to Fusion, who shared some of it with the Clinton campaign. Which was so much worse than meeting within Russian agents at your campaign headquarters for the explicit purpose of receiving stolen information.
Just about the only actually interesting bits of the report may be those laughably broad (and very inconsistently applied) redactions.
The Committee’s investigation also reviewed the opening, in summer 2016, of a FBI enterprise counterintelligence investigation into [REDACTED] Trump campaign associates: Because of “the sensitivity of the matter,” the FBI did not notify congressional leadership about this investigation during the FBl’s regular counterintelligence briefings. Three of [REDACTED] original subjects of the FBI investigation have been charged with crimes and the Committee’s review of these cases covers the period prior to the appointment of Special Counsel in May 2017.
That’s a spot where it would be generally interesting to see what’s behind the ink. But what’s in front of it … is not particularly valuable. Except for providing Trump with more “no collusion!” tweets.