WASHINGTON – The Senate Intelligence Committee strongly backed the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, ultimately intending to help Donald Trump win.
“The committee concurs with intelligence and open-source assessments that this influence campaign was approved by President Putin,” the panel said Tuesday in a report that endorsed as “sound” the intelligence findings issued in January 2017. The committee said there was a body of intelligence “to support the assessment that Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for Trump.”
The Senate panel, which has sustained the only major bipartisan investigation into Russian meddling, forcefully rejected a campaign led by House Republicans and President Trump, who have contended that anti-Trump bias tainted the Russia inquiry from the start.
Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said that after 16 months of investigation, his panel “sees no reason to dispute the conclusions” reached by the intelligence community. “The committee continues its investigation and I am hopeful that this installment of the committee’s work will soon be followed by additional summaries providing the American people with clarity around Russia’s activities regarding U.S. elections.”
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat, said “the Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump. While our investigation remains ongoing, we have to learn from 2016 and do more to protect ourselves from attacks in 2018 and beyond.”
Trump has repeatedly dismissed special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into Russian meddling, and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it, as a “witch hunt.” The president also has wavered from time to time on whether he believes Putin’s assurances that Russia didn’t attempt to shape the U.S. campaign.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump tweeted on June 28.
House Republicans have contended the Russia investigation went awry well before Mueller’s appointment because it depended on an anti-Trump dossier gathered by former British spy Christopher Steele and financed by Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
But the Senate report said the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference didn’t rely on the dossier because it contained unverified information.
“All individuals the committee interviewed verified that the dossier did not in any way inform the analysis,” the panel said.
The Senate Intelligence panel has continued its investigation of whether anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s efforts. Burr has said he hopes to wrap up interviews this month and begin drafting a final report in August.
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