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Report finds Russian plot to aid Trump

Senate intelligence panel backs spy agencies’ work

By DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF and WIRE REPORTS

This article was originally published May 17, 2018 at 4:30 a.m. Updated May 17, 2018 at 10:27 a.m.

mark-warner-the-senate-intelligence-committee-vice-chairman-called-the-russian-meddling-an-extensive-sophisticated-effort

Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman, called the Russian meddling an “extensive, sophisticated” effort.

Former CIA Director John Brennan (left) and Adm. Mike Rogers, the former National Security Agency chief, rush to a Senate Intelligence Committee meeti...

President Donald Trump walks toward Marine One on the White House lawn for a trip Wednesday to visit his wife, who is recovering from surgery at Walte...

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., goes behind closed doors as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee arrive to vote o...

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee has determined that the U.S. intelligence community was correct in assessing that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump, contradicting findings House Republicans reported last month.

"We see no reason to dispute the [intelligence community's] conclusions," the committee's chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said Wednesday in a joint statement with vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Warner added: "Our staff concluded that the ... conclusions were accurate and on point. The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President [Vladimir] Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton."

This marks the second of four interim findings the intelligence panel has said it will publicize before tackling the more consequential question of whether Trump and his associates colluded with Russia to influence the election's outcome, allegations the president has denied and sought to discredit. The committee, which earlier this month released related findings on election security, is expected to publish a comprehensive final report this fall.

Another interim report due in the next few months will explore how social media networks were exploited. A fourth will evaluate how President Barack Obama's administration handled early warnings from intelligence agencies of Russian meddling.

Wednesday's announcement comes amid growing Republican scrutiny of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team also is examining whether Trump's campaign coordinated with the Kremlin and if the president obstructed justice in a bid to limit the probe's scope.

On that front, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday said Mueller's investigators told the president's legal team that Mueller would adhere to the Justice Department's view that the Constitution bars the prosecution of sitting presidents, meaning the special counsel will not indict Trump if he uncovers any wrongdoing.

The disclosure provides the greatest clarity to date about how Mueller, who is also investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself, may proceed. If he concludes that he has evidence that the president broke the law, experts say, he now has only two main options while Trump remains in office: He could write a report about the president's conduct that Congress might use as part of any impeachment proceedings, or he could deem the president as an nonindicted co-conspirator in court documents.

Giuliani said the special counsel's office displayed uncertainty about whether Trump could be indicted.

"When I met with Mueller's team, they seemed to be in a little bit of confusion about whether they could indict," Giuliani said. "We said, 'It's pretty clear that you have to follow DOJ policy.'"

Giuliani said one member of Mueller's office acknowledged that the president could not be indicted. Two or three days later, Giuliani said, Mueller's office called another of the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, to say that prosecutors would adhere to the Justice Department view.

"They can't indict," Giuliani said. "They can't indict. Because if they did, it would be dismissed quickly. There's no precedent for a president being indicted."

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment about the assertions of Giuliani, who since being hired by Trump last month has repeatedly made statements that were later clarified.

'HAVE THE FACTS'

The Senate Intelligence Committee's findings published Wednesday clash with the House GOP's determination that the intelligence community did not follow its own best practices in concluding the Kremlin favored Trump in the election.

The dispute -- and the questions it now raises about which record of events is most accurate -- comes as the Republican Party is trying to adopt a unified message heading into the 2018 election season.

Trump has taken umbrage at the intelligence community's determination that the Kremlin favored his candidacy over Clinton's. The president cheered the House Intelligence Committee's report, claiming on Twitter that it vindicated him by finding there was no evidence his campaign colluded with Russia.

Although the Senate panel has yet to weigh in on the collusion allegations, Burr and Warner have hinted for days that their panel's interim findings on the intelligence community would depart from those reached by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee.

"I'm not sure that the House was required to substantiate every conclusion with facts," Burr told reporters last week, promising the Senate panel would "have the facts to show for" its conclusions.

"Everyone that we've ever had testify still stands by the full findings" of the intelligence community's assessment, Warner said Monday, adding later, "We've had all the Obama officials, we've had all the Trump officials. Every person."

Asked Wednesday about the discrepancy between the two panels' conclusions, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the House Intelligence Committee's chairman, said: "That's nice." He declined to elaborate.

Nunes, who became the subject of an ethics inquiry last year, delegated day-to-day oversight of that panel's Russia investigation to Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, but remained peripherally involved, approving subpoenas and other related actions.

Conaway's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

House Democrats, who roundly disagreed with the House GOP's findings, praised the Senate Intelligence Committee's conclusions. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the House intelligence panel's ranking member, said in a statement that he "fully concur[s] with the conclusion of the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the [intelligence community's] determination that Russia sought to help the Trump campaign, hurt Hillary Clinton and sow discord in the United States is fully supported by the evidence."

As the Senate panel's investigation moves into its final stages, members will have to resolve lingering disputes, including whether to summon Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner to public hearings.

Democrats want every possible witness to be interviewed, including key players in Mueller's investigation such as cooperating witnesses Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who may not be available to testify for months.

As Burr and Warner headed up an escalator in the basement of the Capitol complex after a recent briefing in a secure room, a reporter asked Burr if he'd relent on calling Trump Jr. and Kushner for public hearings.

"Make some news. Tell him! Make some news!" Warner cajoled from a step below Burr. Burr demurred.

Asked if he agrees with the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who also serves on the panel, said he doesn't "want to get ahead of the committee as a whole."

"I will say, though, that, in general, over the last year and a half, as we've reviewed the intelligence and the analysis that went into that intelligence community assessment, we found most of its conclusions borne out," said Cotton, of Dardanelle.

It is not surprising that Moscow would attempt to interfere, he said.

"Russia has tried to influence our elections and influence our political debate for decades, and they continue to try to do so not just in the United States but in western Europe as well. So there's no doubt that Russia and Russian intelligence services were trying to sow chaos and discord in our democracy then just as they have for decades," Cotton said.

It is a "wholly separate question whether the Trump campaign was involved in that at all and, as several Democrats on the committee have pointed out repeatedly, there's still no evidence of that whatsoever," he continued.

On Wednesday, Senate Intelligence Committee members met in closed session to discuss their findings with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.

All three were deeply involved in issuing the intelligence assessment of Russian meddling in the election. None has wavered from the conclusions about Russian interference in the election, according to senators who were in the room.

Information for this article was contributed by Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post; by Mary Clare Jalonick and Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press; by Steven T. Dennis, Arit John and Nafeesa Syeed of Bloomberg News; by Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage of The New York Times; and by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

A Section on 05/17/2018

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23cal says... May 17, 2018 at 6 a.m.

I'm betting the Trump cultists will scream about "collusion" and try to make enough noise to overcome the blaring truth "that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump".
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We all know Russia is America's adversary. We all know Russia doesn't want what is best for the USA. If Russia was supporting Trump---and it certainly appears from this investigation and the intelligence agencies worldwide that that is the case----it was doing so to harm America.
That is the elephant in the room that the cultists want to hide by screaming about "collusion".
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Speaking for myself, I don' t want the Russian candidate leading our country, collusion or not.

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RBear says... May 17, 2018 at 6:19 a.m.

Agree 23cal. You have a group of Trump loyalists who can't really comprehend what this means or why it's important. In their mind, Trump won, that settles it, he can do no wrong. It's an issue illiterate bunch of folks who ignore facts just to keep the idiot in the WH. They are proud to be the Fifth Avenue supporters, which really shows the sad state of one segment of our country's electorate.
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The Senate is starting to reach similar conclusions that Mueller's team is reaching which gives more credibility to the reports. That's not a good sign for Trump and his team, or what team he can keep cobbled together. I'm now starting to see why he wants to be in charge so much, even if he doesn't have a clue. He can't keep a team together long enough to put forth policy. One of the few that seems to be hanging around appears to be the most corrupt. That's Scott Pruitt. So much for draining the swamp (another lie from the lips of the Great Liar).

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hah406 says... May 17, 2018 at 8:29 a.m.

Amen! Russia was all up in the middle of the election trying to help Trump and hurt Clinton. There is no disputing those facts. There have also already been 75 charges leveled against 22 individuals directly or indirectly connected to the Trump campaign. This is reaching Watergate sized proportions, and it is only a matter of time. I predict a scathing indictment of Trump and family will come down around October. Then, regardless of whether the House chooses to impeach Trump, he will effectively be castrated.

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BOLTAR says... May 17, 2018 at 8:52 a.m.

There is no serious argument that Trump is fit to remain in office. The more interesting discussion ranks the egregiousness of his many disqualifying deeds, and to what extent these behaviors jeopardize our national security. That said, I do not YET want this spreading gangrene excised from the Republican body politic, but when the self-amputation becomes an undeniable necessity for their survival, I would offer them a rusty hacksaw and a bullet on which to bite.

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BoudinMan says... May 17, 2018 at 9:16 a.m.

what, too early for the philistines to respond? they haven't received their talking points state run tv yet.

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BOLTAR says... May 17, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.

Be thankful when they don't appear, BoudinMan. Talking with many of them is like debating feces-flinging baboons that judge victory by smell.

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dildel says... May 17, 2018 at 10:38 a.m.

Can the trump cowards say "collusion" altogether now , followed by "obstruction" .

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mrcharles says... May 17, 2018 at 11:28 a.m.

Nyet trump!

I disagree with the statements that it's supporters dont understand, comprehend or are illiterate . Like the lunatics who flew the planes into the twin towers, they are mostly firm believers in their deity and thinking is not allowed, just harming the infidels is their goals, as their failures in life are due to the "others". That is what makes them scary, as stupid will fall by the wayside but the believers will sacrifice facts, family and reason to bring on their kingdom here on earth, or destroy it gleefully.

Yet trump has accomplished bringing the cockroaches into the sunlight, the slimy little creatures.

Like in the old testament book Amos , merica maybe being punished for its sins of bribery false testimony , inequitable rulings , and preventing injured parties from finding justice through the court, when one nation deals cruelly with another, or when the weak and helpless in society are crushed by the powerful [ a particular trait of the gop]. Instead the plutocrats always reference to poverty as the fault of the poor while we know individual corporations [ a species of non breathing humans] , wall street paper shufflers and wealthy landowners/industrialist are dishonest and greedy for more money and power become individuals of wealth and privileged position who are always securing greater riches and power by taking advantage of the poor class.

Forgive my glee when the cows of bashan are knocked off their beds of ivory, drinking fine wine while people are being shot outside the embassy.

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mozarky2 says... May 17, 2018 at 12:07 p.m.

Trump will finish both of his terms.
I'm looking forward to seeing how far up the ladder the investigation into the FBI spying on the Trump campaign goes. Looks like some big names are going to prison.

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dumblikeme says... May 17, 2018 at 12:29 p.m.

We wuz HIP-MO-TIZED by them dang Russians, and they still gots control of us!

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