House Panel Draft Report Clears Trump Of Collusion With Russia
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The House Intelligence Committee has officially wrapped up its Russia investigation. Committee Republicans have prepared a draft report that says, among other things, they found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But the committee's Democrats, including ranking member Adam Schiff of California, have a different perspective. Here is Schiff on MSNBC last night.
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ADAM SCHIFF: We're going to continue to do the investigation. It'll obviously be much more difficult. We've never had the power to call in witnesses, but we've learned a great deal when the majority would.
MARTIN: NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas is in studio to tell us more. Hey, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, so the House intel panel found. How did they reach that conclusion?
LUCAS: Well, first it's important to make clear that this is a Republican draft report, it's a Republican decision to shut down the investigation, that Democrats have not had a hand in writing this, and certainly not in the decision to end this investigation. Republicans say that the committee did the work that was necessary to complete the investigation. They interviewed 73 witnesses. They received more than 300,000 pages of documents. There were 230 hours of testimony. You mentioned that they found no evidence of collusion. They also say that Russia interfered - they acknowledged that - but that Russia did not intend to help Trump win.
That contradicts, of course, the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies. The Republican leading the committee investigation found Trump associates had inappropriate meetings. They do acknowledge that. Said that they perhaps had bad judgment, but that there was nothing more nefarious than that. The draft report is around 150 pages. It will be handed over to committee Democrats today. There's one individual who is happy with this decision so far, and that of course is President Trump, who tweeted last night, in all caps, that the committee has found no evidence of collusion.
MARTIN: So we heard Adam Schiff there saying, the ranking Democrat on the committee, that the panel was hamstrung from the beginning, he doesn't think these conclusions conclude anything and that he's going to continue to investigate. What does that mean?
LUCAS: Well, it's going to be difficult for committee Democrats to conduct a kind of full-throated investigation on their own because they don't have the power to compel witnesses. They don't have subpoena power. But they can continue to talk to people, interview people who want to come forward and speak to them. And he says that that's what they'll try to do. Now, Schiff has been very critical in the past 24 hours of this decision to shut down the investigation. He accused Republicans of being more interested in protecting the president than protecting the country.
He says that Republicans have been unwilling to conduct a serious investigation to compel witnesses to answer, witnesses such as White House communications director Hope Hicks, former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He said that Republicans were unwilling to subpoena communications, bank records, things that might help clarify potential links between people within the Trump campaign and people on the outside, Russians in particular. Basically, the problem for Democrats now is that they don't have the power to conduct a full-throated investigation on their own.
MARTIN: Right. And the House intel panel was always considered to be the more partisan of the two congressional investigations.
LUCAS: It's been swamped by partisan...
MARTIN: Right. So speaking of which, I mean, with this House investigation closing down, what effect does that have on the Senate's investigation and the Mueller investigation?
LUCAS: The Senate investigation continues on its path. It's not impacted by this at all. And then of course special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is on a separate track. He's secured guilty pleas from five individuals so far. Another 14 have been charged. Mueller's team has cooperating witnesses, and they will plow ahead with the investigation on all possible paths.
MARTIN: All right. Ryan Lucas. He covers the Justice Department for NPR. Thanks so much, Ryan.
LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.