The news that House Republicans have ended their investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election – concluding that there was no collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians and that Russia was not working to improve Trump’s chances – is being seized on as proof positive that this whole matter is not settled.
“THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION,” Trump tweeted soon after the House Intelligence Committee announced that it had concluded its work.
Here’s the issue: The findings of the House Intelligence Committee is one data point among many. It is not determinative of anything. It is the view of a handful of House Republicans. That’s it.
Here are five facts that remain true about the ongoing investigations into Russia’s active interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign.
1. This is a finding of only the Republicans on the committee. Democrats, led by ranking member Adam Schiff of California, believe that the investigation has been cut short for political reasons. On Tuesday night, Schiff announced that the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee would release a 20-plus-page document detailing the results of the investigation as well as areas that they believe were simply not explored fully. Schiff added that there was “significant evidence” of collusion, although he wouldn’t say whether it rose to a criminal level.
2. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation continues. While the House committee’s probe has been hampered by partisanship almost since the start of this Russia investigation, the Senate side has worked together on a much more bipartisan basis. Chairman Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican, has repeatedly said that while he has seen no evidence of collusion, this remains an ongoing investigation and he will withhold judgment until be sees the whole picture.
3. The Intelligence Community has unanimously concluded Russia meddled to help Trump. This is important. While the House Republicans say that the Russians weren’t trying to help Trump (and hurt Hillary Clinton), that goes against a document the Intelligence Community released last January about Russian meddling.
“The CIA just got it wrong,” Rep. Chris Stewart, the Utah Reupblican, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night. But, that understates it. It’s not just the CIA – it’s the NSA, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. All of those entities signed onto the January 2017 document that made clear that a) there was Russian interference in the election and b) that it was aimed at helping Trump and hurting Clinton.
4. Republicans are shaky on whether Russia wanted Trump to win. While the conclusion of the House Intelligence Committee appears to be that Russia was out to sow chaos rather than help Trump and hurt Clinton, not everyone – even on the Republican side – is reading from that playbook.
“Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy or undermine her presidency had she prevailed,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who sits on the Intelligence Committee. Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican who led the investigation, told CNN something very similar – saying that it was a “glass half full, glass half empty” argument as to whether the Russians wanted Trump to win.
An objective look here suggests this is a distinction without a difference. There were two major party candidates: Trump and Clinton. If Russia wanted Clinton to lose (as Gowdy says) then it, by default, wanted Trump to win. One doesn’t come without the other; it’s a zero sum game – what was good for Trump was bad for Clinton and vice versa.
5. The Mueller investigation just keeps chugging. Viewed from 50,000 feet, what has happened with the House Intelligence Committee over the past 48 hours is barely a blip. Bob Mueller, appointed as special counsel by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year, is the real show here. He has already secured three guilty pleas from Trump campaign officials – all of whom are cooperating with the broader investigation. He has charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a variety of alleged financial improprieties. He’s charged 13 Russians with helping to run a broad-scale attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.
And, he’s not done yet. While Trump’s lawyers have insisted that Mueller is bringing his probe to an end, there’s little actual evidence to back up that claim. Mueller has said nothing publicly – about timing or anything else – and his push for a guilty plea (and a pledge of cooperation) from Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates recently suggests that he is not at the end of all of this.
These are facts. No matter what Trump tweets or what conservative talk radio says, these are realities that are not changed by the decision to bring the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation to a close.
For all of those trying to draw conclusions from what’s happened this week in the Russia investigation, they’d be wise to remember the words of John Adams (although he wasn’t the first to utter them): “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”