Republicans On House Intel Committee Push To End Russia Probe
Earlier this week, we speculated that a shift in Russia-related Democratic talking points could be a sign that Congressional investigators, and possibly even special counsel Robert Mueller, might soon confirm what many have long suspected: that there is no evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Since then, Congress has launched a trio of new investigations into the Obama-era Uranium One deal, reminding lawmakers of the fact that the Clintons have just as many – if not more – ties to shady Russian entities than the Trumps. And now, the Hill reported just minutes ago that Republicans on the House Intelligence committee are pushing to close their investigation by the end of the year, as investigators have failed to find anything conclusively proving Russian interference in the election.
Congressmen complain that the investigation, which was initially intended to investigate possible Russia ties between both the Trump and Clinton campaigns, has instead meandered in several different directions, like the unmasking of Trump associates by Obama-era officials, and the provenance of the so-called “Trump dossier”, which it has been confirmed, was funded and sources by the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
The committee announced its investigation into Russian election interference in January. Ten months later, the panel is still digging for information, frustrating members who were never enthusiastic about the probe to begin with. Many say they are ready to close the books on the matter.
“I think this investigation has gone excruciating slow,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) told the Hill. “We’ve been doing this for more than a year. We started looking at it on the committee in September [of 2016].”
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who is leading the Russia review, told reporters he intends to wrap up the investigation “as soon as I can.”
“I have no interest in prolonging this one second longer than it needs to,” he said, adding that the committee intends to do a thorough investigation and “that takes some time.”
As the Hill points out, the Intelligence Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating Russian involvement in the presidential election. It even produced one of the most significant public contributions in the Russia saga to date when then-FBI director James B. Comey confirmed the federal investigation into the matter during a March hearing. But more recently, the probe has focused on the possible quid pro quo between the Clintons and Russia-affiliated entities related to the Obama administration’s approval of a deal that ceded 20% of US uranium reserves to Russian control.
Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, who is assisting Conaway in leading the probe since Chairman Devin Nunes recused himself earlier this year, disputed Democratic accusations that the many side investigations had slowed the probe. Rooney added that the probe should be wrapped up by the end of the year.
“At some point you are going to reach a saturation point where the information, the facts and the evidence are all saying the same thing. There’s nothing new and just keeping it open for the sake of keeping it open is spinning your wheels,” he told the Hill.
“We owe the American people a report and the intelligence community a report and I would like that to be sooner rather than later,” he added, citing a desire not to waste taxpayer dollars.
Rooney expressed confidence that the panel could complete its work by the end of the year — a deadline that the top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), called “unrealistic.”
To be sure, the committee will soon be inundated with files related to the FBI’s analysis and handling of the Trump dossier, after the agency acquiesced to the committee’s subpoena following a monthslong struggle.
It remains to be seen what the resolution of the investigation will look like. Congress can’t bring criminal charges – that power is reserved for special counsel Mueller, who appears to be focusing on possible financial crimes committed by former Trump campaign executive Paul Manafort. But it can make recommendations about how to prevent foreign powers from meddling in US elections. Notably, the characterization of the investigation provided by the House is at odds with Senate and Mueller, who continue to aggressively pursue the Russia interference narrative. We’ve noted time and time again that the $100,000 in Facebook ads purchased by a purported Russian troll farm with links to the government pales in comparison to the $100 million-plus spent by the Clinton campaign and allied Super PACs. Yet, lawmakers and the media continue to insist that Russia was running a “sophisticated” interference campaign meant to “sow chaos” by “infecting” the minds of swing state voters.
Facebook, Twitter and Google have said they will send their general counsels to testify before a joint session of the House and Senate Intelligence committees next week. But after that, it appears at least one of the three Congressional investigations launched in the aftermath of Trump’s upset victory will finally be winding down.