GOP-Led House Panel Clears Trump, His Aides in Russia Probe

WASHINGTON—The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, concluding that Moscow waged a campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the American democratic process, but finding no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign assisted in the effort.

Democrats on the committee contested the Republicans’ findings, writing in their dissent that Russia sought influence in the Trump campaign and that the campaign was open to such contact.

A declassified and heavily redacted version of the full 253-page report was released by the committee Friday. A summary of the panel’s initial recommendations were first made public in March.

The panel’s main conclusion was that Russia didn’t aim to boost Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the election in particular, but instead sought to subvert the notion of free and fair elections and spread “chaos and discord” in the U.S. It concludes the campaigns of Mr. Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, both displayed “poor judgment” in their engagement with Russian actors.

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The report is also highly critical of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for their response to the Russian activity in 2016 and beyond. The GOP-led report blames the Obama administration for a “slow and inconsistent” response to Russian interference in the 2016 election. It also said that a major pillar of the intelligence agencies’ conclusions in January 2017 about Russian intentions “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft.”

It criticizes the intelligence agencies for their failure to warn the Trump campaign about several staffers under investigation as possible counterintelligence threats. “This lack of notification meant that the campaign was unable to address the problems with each campaign member and was ignorant about the potential national security concerns,” the report concludes.

The dissent written by the committee’s Democratic minority—based on the same underlying source materials—found ample evidence of a Russian government attempt “to gain entree to and influence with individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” as well as a “willingness by Trump campaign officials to accept those overtures.” The conclusions in the GOP-written report “wither under scrutiny,” the Democratic dissent concludes.

The Republican-authored report, issued by a committee that has been rife with partisan infighting over the course of the yearlong investigation, is unlikely to quell the controversy over what occurred during the 2016 election. The matter is still the focus of an active investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, and several guilty pleas and criminal indictments of Trump associates have arisen from that probe, including tax fraud and conspiracy to launder money. None of these charges relate to collusion with Russia.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also conducting a review of the same matters as those the House panel examined.

The report provided immediate fodder for Mr. Trump, who has long denied any collusion. Minutes after the report was released publicly, Mr. Trump tweeted: “Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. ‘No evidence’ that the Trump Campaign ‘colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia.’”

The House committee’s work was based on interviews with 73 witnesses and a review of more than 300,000 documents over the course of more than a year. During that time, the Democrats and the Republicans on the panel frequently tangled over the direction of the investigation. Partisan divisions on the panel grew so deep that the Republicans planned to build a wall to separate their staff from the Democratic committee aides, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Democrats said the Republican-led panel seemed more interested in protecting Mr. Trump from scrutiny that in finding the facts.

“Throughout the investigation, committee Republicans chose not to seriously investigate—or even see, when in plain sight—evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, instead adopting the role of defense counsel for key investigation witnesses,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said in a statement Friday.

People familiar with the matter say that the Democrats have had discussions about reopening the investigation if they retake control of the House in the November elections.

One of the most contentious findings of the Republican report rebuts a January 2017 conclusion by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

The GOP report said that the conclusion was the product of inadequate “tradecraft”—and resulted from an “unusually constrained review and coordination process, which deviated from established CIA practice.”

The Republican report chastises Mr. Trump’s campaign for taking part in a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer that was ostensibly arranged to discuss allegedly damaging information about Mrs. Clinton. The meeting was attended by Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. , his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, then the campaign chairman.

The report concludes that meeting “demonstrated poor judgment.” It also criticizes Mr. Trump and his associates for their “praise for and communications with WikiLeaks,” a website that released thousands of emails from the Democratic Party during the campaign.

The report also criticizes Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for its efforts to obtain opposition research on Mr. Trump “from Russian sources, including a litany of claims by high-ranking current and former Russian government officials.”

The research was conducted by an ex-British spy and formed the basis for what is now called the “dossier” on Mr. Trump—a series of unverified and salacious allegations about his business ties and personal life.

Mr. Trump said he was “honored” by the outcome of the committee’s investigation. He called the report “conclusive” and “very powerful” during brief remarks to reporters in the Oval Office.

“But what we really should do is get on with our lives,” Mr. Trump said.

—Michael C. Bender contributed to this article.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

Appeared in the April 28, 2018, print edition as ‘GOP-Led Panel Clears Trump on Russia.’

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