By Jeremy Herb, Marshall Cohen and Katelyn Polantz, CNN
The Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday the most comprehensive and meticulous examination to date explaining how Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign welcomed the foreign adversary’s help, revealing new information about contacts between Russian officials and associates of President Donald Trump during and after the campaign.
In several key ways, the committee’s counterintelligence investigation goes beyond the findings of former special counsel Robert Mueller released last year, as the Republican-led Senate panel was not limited by questions of criminality that drove the special counsel probe.
Among the key findings:
- That then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort was working with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence officer, and sought to share internal campaign information with Kilimnik. The committee says it obtained “some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected” to Russia’s 2016 hacking operation.
- That Trump and senior campaign officials sought to obtain advance information on WikiLeaks’ email dumps through Roger Stone, and that Trump spoke to Stone about WikiLeaks, despite telling the special counsel in written answers he had “no recollections” that they had spoken about it.
- That Russian-government actors continued until at least January 2020 to spread disinformation about Russia’s election interference, and that Manafort and Kilimnik both sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, and not Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
- That Russia took advantage of the Trump transition team’s inexperience and opposition to Obama administration policies “to pursue unofficial channels,” and it’s likely that Russian intelligence services and others acting on the Kremlin’s behalf exploited the Transition’s shortcomings for Russia’s advantage.
- That the FBI may have been victim to Russian disinformation coming through intelligence sources such as the Trump dossier author Christopher Steele.
- And that campaigns, political leaders and other influential Americans must be even more diligent in the future not to fall victim to Russian interference, given the extent of Russia’s efforts and successes to reach campaign operatives in 2016.
The report is all the more remarkable because it was led by then-Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. The report provides an exhaustive, bipartisan confirmation of the contacts between Russians and Trump associates in 2016 — and it was the only congressional committee that managed to avoid the partisan infighting that plagued the other congressional investigations into Russian election meddling.
It comes at a time when the intelligence community has warned that Russia is once again seeking to interfere in the US presidential and Trump has continued to try to undermine Russia investigation findings and prosecutions during his reelection campaign.
The nearly 1,000-page report caps off a three-year investigation into 2016 election interference that included more than 200 interviews, including with top Trump family members and Trump campaign officials such as Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon.
Unlike Mueller’s report, which focused on questions of criminal conduct, the committee’s report detailing the findings of its counterintelligence is hundreds of pages of facts the panel obtained, drawing conclusions in places where Mueller often stopped short of doing so.
Tuesday’s report, which was released with redactions, is the fifth volume the committee has released detailing its findings, with previous chapters examining Russia’s social media campaign and affirming that Russia was seeking to help Trump’s campaign.
While the full committee signed off on the facts laid out on the committee’s report, Democrats and Republicans ended up with different interpretations about what they say about the Trump campaign and collusion — a word that is not written into the body of the report itself.
“We can say, without any hesitation, that the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election,” said acting Senate Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, who took over the panel when Burr stepped aside earlier this year amid an FBI investigation into his stock trades.
Warner, the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement that the report was the “most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date — a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections.”
“I encourage all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions,” Warner said.
In an “additional views” section, a group of Republicans on the panel wrote that the investigation shows “with no doubt, there was no collusion.”
But many of the committee’s Democrats wrote in their additional views that the report “unambiguously shows that members of the Trump Campaign cooperated with Russian efforts to get Trump elected.”
Neither Burr nor Warner signed onto the additional views.
Burr’s statement on the report Tuesday focused on the fact that “much of Russia’s activities weren’t related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself.”
“Their aim is to sow chaos, discord, and distrust,” Burr said.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.