Published by The Lawfare Institute
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On Monday, the House intelligence committee announced the closure of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Below are statements from members the committee majority and minority, and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
After more than a year, the Committee has finished its Russia investigation and will now work on completing our report. I’d like to thank Congressmen Trey Gowdy, Tom Rooney, and especially Mike Conaway for the excellent job they’ve done leading this investigation. I’d also like to recognize the hard work undertaken by our other Committee members as well as our staff. Once the Committee’s final report is issued, we hope our findings and recommendations will be useful for improving security and integrity for the 2018 midterm elections.
Near the start of the HPSCI investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election, the Committee majority and minority agreed to four parameters for this investigation, covering Russian active measures directed against the 2016 election and against our European allies, the U.S. Government’s response to those attacks, links between Russians and the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and leaks of classified information. After conducting 73 witness interviews, holding nine hearings and briefings, and reviewing over 300,000 documents, we are confident that we have thoroughly investigated the agreed-upon parameters, and developed reliable initial findings and recommendations.
We will now be moving into the next phase of this investigation, working with the minority on a report to give the American people answers to the questions they’ve been asking for over a year. With the 2018 primary elections already underway and just 238 days until the mid-term elections in November, it’s important that we give the American people the information they need to arm themselves against Russian attempts to influence our elections.
I look forward to working with Ranking Member Schiff on this next phase of our investigation. The American people deserve our cooperation, and our transparency.
A one page overview of the status of the investigation can be found here. The bipartisan parameters of the investigation can be found here. The metrics of the investigation can be found here. More information about the need for urgent action on election security can be found here.
Today, the House Majority has announced it is terminating the Russia investigation, leaving to others the important work of determining the full extent of Russian interference in our election, the role of U.S. persons connected to the Trump campaign in that intervention, possible efforts to obstruct the investigation by the President and most important, what needs to be done to protect the country going forward. While the Majority members of our committee have indicated for some time that they have been under great pressure to end the investigation, it is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch. By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly.
Next week, it will be one year since our investigation began with its first open hearing, and the country learned that the Trump campaign had been the subject of a counterintelligence investigation since July of the election year. Since that time, we have learned a great deal about countless secret meetings, conversations and communications between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, all of which the Trump Administration initially denied, would later misrepresent, and finally be forced to acknowledge. Thirteen Russians have been indicted in a far reaching conspiracy in which the Russians sought to influence our election by helping Donald Trump, hurting the Hillary Clinton campaign and sowing discord in the United States. Most significant, high-ranking Trump campaign and Administration officials have also been indicted, including the President’s national security advisor, his campaign chair and deputy campaign chair, as well as one of his foreign policy advisors, and three of those have already pled guilty.
During that first open hearing of our investigation, I asked whether we could conduct this investigation in the kind of thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues merited, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work would make that impossible. At that time, I said that I did not know the answer, but ‘if this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify, to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous public service and one that is very much in the national interest.’
Regrettably, that challenge proved too much. The Majority was not willing to pursue the facts wherever they would lead, would prove afraid to compel witnesses like Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Corey Lewandowski and so many others to answer questions relevant to our investigation. It proved unwilling to subpoena documents like phone records, text messages, bank records and other key records so that we might determine the truth about the most significant attack on our democratic institutions in history. Instead, it began a series of counter-investigations, designed to attack the credibility of the FBI, the Departments of Justice and State, and investigate anyone and anything other than what they were charged to do — investigate Russia’s interference in our election and the role the Trump campaign played. Ironically, even while they close down the Russia investigation, they plan to continue trying to put our own government on trial: this is a great service to the President, and a profound disservice to the country.
Some will say that we should leave the investigation to Special Counsel Mueller anyway, since he has the resources and independence to do the job. But this fundamentally misapprehends the mission of the Special Counsel, which is to determine whether U.S. laws were broken and who should be prosecuted. It is not Mueller’s job to tell the American people what happened, that is our job, and the Majority has walked away from it. Others may be tempted to say a pox on both houses, and suggest that in a dispute between the parties, both must be equally culpable. But after months of urging the Majority to do a credible investigation, the Minority was put in the position of going along with a fundamentally unserious investigative process, or pointing out what should be done, what must be done, to learn the truth. We chose the latter course.
On a fundamental aspect of our investigation — substantiating the conclusions of the Intelligence Community’s assessment that the Russians interfered in our democracy to advance the Trump campaign, hurt Clinton and sow discord — we should have been able to issue a common report. On those issues, the evidence is clear and overwhelming that the Intelligence Community Assessment was correct. On a whole host of investigative threads, our work is fundamentally incomplete, some issues partially investigated, others, like that involving credible allegations of Russian money laundering, remain barely touched. If the Russians do have leverage over the President of the United States, the Majority has simply decided it would rather not know. On the final aspect of our work — setting out the prescriptions for protecting the country going forward — we will endeavor to continue our work, with or without the active participation of the Majority.
In the coming weeks and months, new information will continue to be exposed through enterprising journalism, indictments by the Special Counsel, or continued investigative work by Committee Democrats and our counterparts in the Senate. And each time this new information becomes public, Republicans will be held accountable for abandoning a critical investigation of such vital national importance.
The Intelligence Community stands by its January 2017 assessment, 'Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.' We will review the HPSCI report findings.