Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are sharply disagreeing with Republicans on the panel who say they do not see any evidence of collusion or coordination between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
California Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, said on Tuesday that he believes there is “significant evidence” of collusion between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia, though he could not say if there was criminal wrongdoing.
Republicans on the committee announced on Monday that they had completed a draft report and they saw no evidence of collusion.
Mr Schiff, who saw the Republican report for the first time on Tuesday, said Democrats on the committee would try to continue the investigation where possible and would write their own report to lay out conclusions from the intelligence panel’s year-long investigation into Russian meddling.
The Republican report “misleadingly characterises events, and paints a portrait and tells a story that could not have been better written if it was written in the White House itself,” Mr Schiff said. Mr Trump enthusiastically praised the draft Republican report, telling reporters ON Tuesday morning that the White House is “very, very happy” with the Republican conclusions.
“It was a powerful decision that left no doubt and I want to thank the House intelligence committee,” Mr Trump said. Democrats have said for some time that they believed Republicans were not conducting a serious investigation.
Mr Schiff on Tuesday released a 22-page report detailing threads that Democrats still believe the committee should pursue and witnesses they still want to hear from. Those include White House officials, campaign officials and people in the intelligence community.
As examples of evidence of coordination, Mr Schiff cited multiple contacts between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia, including a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 and information passed on to an Australian diplomat by a former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopolous, that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Mr Schiff said Democrats would try to release all committee interview transcripts in their report. He also signalled that he would reopen or begin certain lines of inquiry if Democrats retake the majority of the House this November.
Texas Representative Mike Conaway, the Republican leading the Russia probe, previewed some of the Republican report’s findings on Monday, but said the public will not see the full document until Democrats have reviewed it and the intelligence community has decided what information can be released, a process that could take weeks.
“We found no evidence of collusion,” Mr Conaway said, suggesting that those who believe there was collusion are reading too many spy novels.
In addition to the statement on coordination with Russians, Republicans said the draft challenges an assessment by US intelligence agencies that the Russian government, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, waged a covert influence campaign to interfere in the election with the goal of hurting Mrs Clinton’s candidacy and helping Mr Trump’s campaign.
House Intelligence Committee officials said they spent hundreds of hours reviewing raw source material used by the intelligence services in the assessment and that it did not meet the appropriate standards to make the claim about helping Mr Trump.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement soon after the GOP announcement, saying it stood by the intelligence community’s findings. Mr Conaway appeared to walk that conclusion back a bit on on Tuesday, saying it was clear that the Russians intended to hurt Mrs Clinton and make her a less effective president, if she won.
“Whether or not they were trying to hurt Hillary, help Trump, whatever it is – it’s kind of the glass half full, glass half empty,” Mr Conaway said.